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Author's place of birth — Description of country — Its inhabit- 
ants — Genealogical trees — Method of counting time in slave 
districts — Date of author's birth — Names of grandparents — 
Their cabin — Home with them — Slave practice of separating 
mothers from their children — Author's recollections of his 
mother — Who was his father? 25 


Author's early home — Its charms — Author's ignorance of "old 
master" — His gradual perception of the truth concerning 
him — His relations to Col. Edward Lloyd — Author's removal to 
" old master's " home — His journey thence — His separation from 
his grandmother — His grief .29 


Col. Lloyd's plantation — Aunt Katy — Her cruelty and ill-nature — 
Capt. Anthony's partiality to Aunt Katy — Allowance of food — 
Author's hunger — Unexpected rescue by his mother — The re- 
proof of Aunt Katy — Sleep — A slave-mother's love — Author's 
inheritance — His mother's acquirements — Her death. . . 34 


Home plantation of Colonel Lloyd — Its isolation — Its industries — 
The slave rule — Power of overseers — Author finds some enjoy- 


mcnt — Natural scenery — Sloop "Sally Lloyd" — Wind-mill — 
Slave quarter — "Old master's" house — Stables, storehouses, 
etc., etc. — The great house^.— Its surroundings — Lloyd Burial- 
place — Superstition of Slaves — Colonel Lloyd's wealth — Negro 
politeness — Doctor Copper — Captain Anthony — His family — 
Master Daniel Lloyd — His brothers — Social etiquette. . . 40 


Increasing acquaintance with old master — Evils of unresisted 
passion — Apparent tenderness — A man of trouble — Custom of 
muttering to himself — Brutal outrage — A drunken overseer — 
Slaveholder's impatience — Wisdom of appeal — A base and 
selfish attempt to break up a courtship 50 


The author's early reflections on Slavery — Aunt Jennie and Uncle 
Noah — Presentiment of one day becoming a freeman — Conflict 
between an overseer and a slave woman — Advantage of resist- 
ance — Death of an overseer — Col. Lloyd's plantation home — 
Monthly distribution of food — Singing of Slaves — An expla- 
nation — The slaves' food and clothing — Naked children — Life 
in the quarter — Sleeping-places — not beds — Deprivation of sleep 
— Care of nursing babies — Ash cake — Contrast. . , .56 


Contrasts — Great House luxuries — Its hospitality — Entertain- 
ments — Fault-finding — Shameful humiliation of an old and 
faithful coachman — William Wilks — Curious incident — Ex- 
pressed satisfaction not always genuine — Reasons for suppress- 
ing the truth 65 


Austin Gore — Sketch of his character — Overseers as a class — 
Their peculiar characteristics — The marked individuality of 


Austin Gore— His sense of duty— Murder of poor Denby— Sen- 
sation — How Gore made his peace with Col. Lloyd — Other 
horrible murders— No laws for the protection of slaves possible 
of being enforced '^5 


Miss Lucretia— Her kindness— How it was manifested — " Ike " — 
A battle with him— Miss Lucretia's balsam— Bread— How it was 
obtained— Gleams of sunset amidst the general darkness — 
Suffering from cold— How we took our meal mush — Prepara- 
tions for going to Baltimore — Delight at the change — Cousin 
Tom's opinion of Baltimore — Arrival there — Kind reception — 
Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Auld— Their son Tommy— My relations to 
them — My duties — A turning-point in my life 83 



City annoyances — Plantation regrets — My mistress — Her history — 
Her kindness — My master — His sourness — My comforts — In- 
creased sensitiveness — My occupation — Learning to read — Bane- 
ful effects of slaveholding on my dear, good mistress — Mr. 
Hugh forbids Mrs. Sophia to teach me further — Clouds gather 
on my bright prospects — Master Auld's exposition of the Phi- 
losophy of Slavery — City slaves — Country slaves — Contrasts — 
Exceptions — Mr. Hamilton's two slaves — Mrs. Hamilton's cruel 
treatment of them — Piteous aspect presented by them — No power 
to come between the slave and slaveholder 91 


My mistress — Her slaveholding duties — Their effects on her origi- 
nally noble nature — The conflict in her mind — She opposes my 
learning to read — Too late — She had given me the "inch," I was 
resolved to take the " ell " — How I pursued my study to read — 
My tutors — What progress I made — Slavery — What I heard 
said about it — Thirteen years old — Columbian orator— Dia- 
logue — Speeches — Sheridan — Pitt — Lords Chatham and Fox — 
Knowledge increasing — Liberty — Singing — Sadness — Unhappi- 


ness of Mrs. Sopliia — My hatred of slavery — One Upas tree 
overshadaws us all 99 



Abolitionists spoken of — Eagerness to know the meaning of 
word — Consults the dictionary — Incendiary information — The 
enigma solved — "Nat Turner" insurrection — Cholera — Relig- 
ion — Methodist minister — Religious impressions — Father Law- 
son — His character and occupation — His influence over me — 
Our mutual attachment — New hopes and aspirations — Heavenly 
light — Two Irishmen on wharf — Conversation with them — 
Learning to write — My aims 108 


Death of old Master's son Richard, speedily followed by that of 
old Master — Valuation and division of all the property, includ- 
ing the slaves — Sent for to come to Hillsborough to be valued 
and divided — Sad prospects and grief — Parting — Slaves have no 
voice in deciding their own destinies — General dread of falling 
into Master Andrew's hands — His drunkenness — Good fortune in 
falling to Miss Lucretia — She allows my return to Baltimore — 
Joy at Master Hugh's — Death of Miss Lucretia — Master Thomas 
Auld's second marriage — The new wife unlike the old — Again 
removed from Master Hugh's — Reasons for regret — Plan of 
escape 116 



St. Michaels and its inhabitants — Capt, Auld — His new wife — 
Sufferings from hunger — Forced to steal — Argument in vindica- 
tion thereof — Southern camp -meeting — What Capt. Auld did 
there — Hopes — Suspicions — The result — Faith and works at 
variance — Position in the church — Poor Cousin Henny — Metho- 
dist preachers — Their disregard of the slaves — One exception — 
Sabbath-school — How and by whom broken up — Sad change in 
my prospects — Covey, the negro-breaker 126 



Journey to Covey's — Meditations by the way— Covey's house — 
Family — Awkwardness as a field hand — A cruel beating — Why 
given — Description of Covey — First attempt at driving oxen — 
Hair-breadth escape— Ox and man alike property— Hard labor 
more effective than the whip for breaking down the spirit — 
Cunning and trickery of Covey — Family worship — Shocking 
and indecent contempt for chastity — Great mental agitation — 
Anguish beyond description 140 


Experience at Covey's summed up — First six month's severer 
than the remaining six — Preliminaries to the change— Reasons 
for narrating the circumstances — Scene in the treading-yard — 
Author taken ill — Escapes to St. Michaels — The pursuit — Suffer- 
ing in the woods — Talk with Master Thomas — His beating — 
Driven back to Covey's — The slaves never sick — Natural to 
expect them to feign sickness— Laziness of slaveholders. . . 155 


A sleepless night — Return to Covey's — Punished by him — The 
chase defeated — Vengeance postponed — Musings in the woods — 
The alternative — Deplorable spectacle — Night in the woods — 
Expected attack — Accosted by Sandy — A friend, not a master — 
Sandy's hospitality — The ash-cake supper— Interview with 
Sandy — His advice — Sandy a conjuror as well as a Christian — 
The magic root — Strange meeting with Covey — His manner — 
Covey's Sunday face — Author's defensive resolve — The fight — 
The victory, and its results 164 


Change of masters — Benefits derived by change — Fame of the 
fight with Covey — Reckless unconcern — Author's abhorrence of 
slavery — Ability to read a cause of prejudice — The holidays — 


How spent— Sharp bit at slavery — Effects of holidays — Differ- 
ence between Covey and Freeland — An irreligious master 
preferred to a religious one — Hard life at Covey's useful to the 
author — Improved condition does not bring contentment — Con- 
genial society at Freeland's — Author's Sabbath-school — Secrecy 
necessary — Affectionate relations of tutor and pupils — Confi- 
dence and friendship among slaves — Slavery the inviter of 
vengeance . 179 


New Year's thoughts and meditations — Again hired by Freeland — 
Kindness no compensation for slavery — Incipient steps toward 
escape — Considerations leading thereto — Hostility to slavery — 
Solemn vow taken — Plan divulged to slaves — Columbian orator 
again — Scheme gains favor — Danger of discovery — Skill of 
slaveholders — Suspicion and coercion — Hymns with double 
meaning — Consultation — Pass-word — Hope and fear — Ignorance 
of Geography — Imaginary difRculties — Patrick Henry — Sandy 
a dreamer — Route to the north mapped out — Objections — Frauds 
— Passes — Anxieties — Fear of failure — Strange presentiment — 
Coincidence — Betrayal — Arrests — Resistance — Mrs. Freeland — 
Prison — Brutal Jests — Passes eaten — Denial — Sandy — Dragged 
behind horses — Slave traders — Alone in prison — Sent to Balti- 
more .... 191 



Nothing lost in my attempt to run away — Comrades at home — 
Reasons for sending me away — Return to Baltimore — Tommy 
changed — Caulking in Gardiner's ship yard — Desperate fight — 
Its causes — Conflict between white and black labor — Outrage — 
Testimony — Master Hugh — Slavery in Baltimore — My condi- 
tion improves — New associations — Slaveholder's right to the 
slave's wages — How to make a discontented slave. . . . 219 


Closing incidents in my "Life as a Slave " — Discontent — Suspi- 
cions — Master's generosity — Difficulties in the way of escape — 


Plan to obtain money— Allowed to hire my time— A gleam of 
hope — Attend camp-meeting— Anger of Master Hugh— Tlie 
result — Plans of escape— Day for departure fixed — Harassing 
doubts and fears— Painful thoughts of separation from friends. 233 




Reasons for not having revealed the manner of escape — Nothing 
of romance in the method — Danger — Free papers — Unjust tax — 
Protection papers — " Free trade and sailors' rights " — American 
eagle — Railroad train — Unobserving conductor — Capt. Mc- 
Gowan — Honest German — Fears — Safe arrival in Philadelphia 
—Ditto in New York 242 



Loneliness and insecurity — "AUender's Jake"' — Succored by a 
sailor — David Ruggles — Marriage — Steamer J. W. Richmond — 
Stage to New Bedford — Arrival there — Driver's detention of 
baggage — Nathan Johnson — Change of name — Why called 
" Douglass "—Obtaining Work— The Liberatm' and its Editor. 250 



Anti-Slavery Convention at Nantucket — First Speech — ^Much Sen- 
sation — Extraordinary Speech of Mr. Garrison— Anti-Slavery 
Agency — Youthful Enthusiasm — Fugitive Slaveship Doubted- 
Experience in slavery written — Danger of Recapture. . . 266 



Work in Rhode Island — Dorr War — Recollections of old friends 
— Further labors in Rliode Island and elsewhere in New Eng- 
land 272 


Anti-Slavery Conventions held in parts of New England, and in 
some of the Middle and Western States — Mobs — Incidents, etc. 280 


Danger to be averted — A refuge sought abroad — Voyage on the 
steamship Cambria — Refusal of first-class passage — Attractions 
of the fore-castle deck — Hutchinson family— Invited to make a 
speech — Southerners feel insulted — Captain threatens to put 
them in irons — Experiences abroad — Attentions received — Im- 
pressions of different members of Parliament, and of other public 
men — Contrast with life in America — Kindness of friends — 
Their purchase of my person, and the gift of the same to my- 
self— My return 289 



New Experiences — Painful -Disagreement-of -Opinion with old 
Friends — Final Decision to publish my Paper in Rochester — 
Its Fortunes and its Friends — Change in my own Views Re- 
garding the Constitution of the United States — Fidelity to 
Conviction — Loss of Old Friends — Support of New Ones — Loss 
of House, etc. , by Fire — Triumphs and Trials — Underground 
Railroad — Incidents 320 


My First Meeting with Capt. John Brown— The Free Soil Move- 
ment — Colored Convention — Uncle Tom's Cabin — Industrial 
School for Colored People— Letter to Mrs. H. B. Stowe. . . 337 



Increased demands of slavery — War in Kansas — John Brown's 
raid— His capture and execution— My escape to England from 
United States marshals . 360 


My connection with John Brown— To and from England— Presi- 
dential contest — Election of Abraham Lincoln. . . . 383 


Recruiting of the 54th and 55th Colored Regiments— Visit to 
President Lincoln and Secretary Stanton — Promised a Commis- 
sion as Adjutant-General to General Thomas — Disappointment. 408 


Proclamation of emancipation — Its reception in Boston — Objec- 
tions brought against it — Its effect on the country — Interview 
with President Lincoln — New York riots — Re-election of Mr. 
Lincoln — His inauguration, and inaugural — ^Vice-President 
Johnson — Presidential reception — The fall of Richmond — 
Fanueil Hall— The assassination — Condolence .... 436 


Satisfaction and anxiety, new fields of labor opening — Lyceums 
and colleges soliciting addresses — Literary attractions — ^Pecu- 
niary gain — Still pleading for human rights — President Andy 
Johnson — Colored delegation — Their reply to him — National 
Loyalist Convention, 1866, and its procession — Not wanted — 
Meeting with an old friend — Joy and surprise — The old master's 
welcome, and Miss Amanda's friendship — Enfranchisement 
debated and accomplished — The negro a citizen. . . . 453 



Inducement to a political career — Objections — A newspaper en- 
terprise — The New National Era — Its abandonment — The 
Freedman's Saving and Trust Company — Sad experience — 
Vindication 484 


The Santo Domingo controversy — Decoration Day at Arlington, 
1871 — Speech delivered there — National colored convention at 
New Orleans, 1872 — Elector at large for the. State of New York 
— Death of Hon. Henry Wilson 494 


Return to "old master" — A last interview — Capt. Auld's admis- 
sion ' * had I been in your place, I should have done as you 
did " — Speech at Easton — The old jail there — Invited to a sail 
on the revenue cutter Guthrie — Hon. John L. Thomas — Visit 
to the old plantation — Home of Col. Lloyd — Kind reception and 
attentions — Familiar scenes — Old memories — Burial-ground — 
Hospitality — Gracious reception from Mrs. Buchanan — A little 
girl's floral gift — A promise of a "good time coming "—Speech 
at Harper's Ferry, Decoration day, 1881 — Storer College — Hon. 
A. J. Hunter. 533 


Hon. Gerrit Smith and Mr. E. C. Delevan — Experiences at Hotels 
and on Steamboats and other modes of travel — Hon. Edward 
Marshall— Grace Greenwood — Hon. Moses Norris — Robert J. 
IngersoU — Reflections and conclusions — Compensations. . . 551 


Grateful recognition — ^Friends in need — Lucretia Mott — Lydia 
Maria Child— Sarah and Angelina Grimke— Abby Kelley— H. 
Beecher Stowe— Other Friends— Woman Suffrage. . . . 566 




Meeting of colored citizens in Washington t6 express their sym- 
pathy at the great national bereavement, the death of President 
Garfield — Concluding reflections and conviction. . . 577 


Oration at the unveiling of the Freedmen's monument, at Lin- 
coln Park, Washington, D. C, April 14, 1876 — Extract from a 
speech delivered at Elmira, N. Y., August 1, 1880. . . . 584 


1. Portrait of the Author on Steel, . . . Face title. 

2. The last time he saw his Mother, . . .36 

3. Whippestg of old Barney, . . . . .70 

4. Gore shooting Denby, . . . . .79 

5. Mrs. Auld teaching him to read, . . .94 

6. Found in the woods by Sandy, .... 166 

7. Driven to jail for running away, . , . 208 

8. His present home in Washington, . . . 243 

9. At the wharf in Newport, .... 254 

10. Fighting the mob in Indiana, .... 285 

11. Portrait of John Brown, .... 335 

12. Portrait of Wm. Lloyd Garrison, . . . 403 

13. Portrait of Wendell Phillips, .... 461 
14 Portrait of Charles Sumner, .... 497 

15. Commissioners to Santo Domingo, .... 503 

16. Marshal at President Garfield's Inauguration, . 521 

17. Revisits his old home, ..... 545 

18. Portrait of Abraham Lincoln on Steel, . . 599 


JUST what this country has in store to benefit or to startle the 
world in the future, no tongue can tell. We know full well the 
wonderful things which have occurred or have been accomplished 
here in the past, but the still more wonderful things which we may 
well say will happen in the centuries of development which lie be- 
fore us, is vain conjecture ; it lies in the domain of speculation. 

America will be the field for the demonstration of truths not now 
accepted and the establishment of a new and higher civilization. 
Horace Walpole's prophecy will be verified when there shall be a 
Xenophon at New York and a Thucydides at Boston. Up to this 
time the most remarkable contribution this country has given to the 
world is the Author and subject of this book, now being introduced 
to the public — Frederick Douglass. The contribution comes natu- 
rally and legitimately and to some not unexpectedly, nevertheless it 
is altogether unique and must be regarded as truly remarkable. 
Our Pantheon contains many that are illustrious and worthy, but 
Douglass is unlike all others, he is sui generis. For every other 
great character we can bring forward, Europe can produce another 
equally as great ; when we bring forward Douglass, he cannot be 

Douglass was born a slave, he won his liberty ; he is of negro 
extraction, and consequently was despised and outraged ; he has by 
his own energy and force of character commanded the respect of 
the Nation ; he was ignorant, he has, against law and by stealth 
and entirely unaided, educated himself; he was poor, he has by 
honest toil and industry become rich and independent, so to speak ; 
he, a chattel slave of a hated and cruelly wronged race, in the teeth 
of American prejudice and in face of nearly every kind of hindrance 
and draw -back, has come to be one of the foremost orators of the 
age, with a reputation established on both sides of the Atlantic ; a 
writer of power and elegance of expression ; a thinker whose views 



are potent in controlling and shaping public opinion ; a high officer 
in the National Government ; a cultivated gentleman whose virtues 
as a husband, father, and citizen are the highest honor a man can 

Frederick Douglass stands upon a pedestal ; he has reached this 
lofty height through years of toil and strife, but it has been the 
strife of moral ideas ; strife in the battle for human rights. No 
bitter memories come from this strife ; no feelings of remorse can 
rise to cast their gloomy shadows over his soul ; Douglass has now 
reached and passed the meridian of life, his co-laborers in the strife 
have now nearly all jiassed away. Garrison has gone, Gerritt Smith 
has gone, Giddingsand Sumner have gone, — nearly all the abolition- 
ists are gone to their reward. The culmination of his life w^ork has 
been reached ; the object dear to his heart — the Emancipation of the 
slaves — had been accomplished, through the blessings of God ; he 
stands facing the goal, already reached by his co-laborers, with a 
halo of peace about him, and nothing but serenity and gratitude 
must fill his breast. To those, who in the past — in ante-bellum days 
— in any degree shared with Douglass his hopes and feelings on the 
slavery question, this serenity of mind, this gratitude, can be under- 
stood and felt. All Americans, no matter what may have been their 
views on slavery, now that freedom has come and slavery is ended, 
must have a restful feeling and be glad that the source of bitterness 
and trouble is removed. The man who is sorry because of the 
abolition of slavery, has outlived his day and generation ; he should 
have insisted upon being buried with the "lost cause" at Appo- 

We rejoice that Douglass has attained unto this exalted position 
— this pedestal. It has been honorably reached ; it is a just recogni- 
tion of talent and effort ; it is another proof that success attends 
high and noble aim. With this example, the black boy as well as 
the white boy can take hope and courage in the race of life. 

Douglass' life has been a romance — and a fragrance — to the age. 
There has been just enough mystery about his origin and escape 
from slavery to throw a charm about them. The odd proceedings 
in the purchase of his freedom after his escape from slavery ; his 
movements in connection with the John Brown raid at Harper's 
Ferry and his subsequent flight across the ocean are romantic as 
anything which took place among the crags and the cliffs, the 
Roderick Dhus and Douglasses of the Lady of the Lake ; while the 
pure life he has led and his spotless character are sweet by contrast 


with the lives of mere politicians and time-serving statesmen. It 
is well to contemplate one like him, who has had *' hair-breadth 
escapes. " It is inspiring to know that the day of self-sacrifice and 
self-development are not passed. 

To say that his life has been eventful, is hardly the word. From 
the time when he first saw the light on the Tuckahoe plantation up 
to the time he was called to fill a high official position, his life has 
been crowded with events which in some sense may be called mira- 
cles, and now since his autobiography has come to be written, we 
must understand the hour of retrospect has come — for casting up 
and balancing accounts as to work done or left undone. 

It is more than forty years now that he has been before the world 
as a writer and speaker — busy, active, wonderful years to him — and 
we are called upon to pass judgment upon his labors. What can 
we say? Can he claim the well done good and faithful? The 
record shows this, and we must state it, generally speaking, his life 
had been devoted to his race and the cause of his race. The free- 
dom and elevation of his people has been his life work, and it has 
been done well and faithfully. That is the record, and that is suffi- 
cient. No higher eulogium can be pronounced than that Long- 
fellow says of the Village Blacksmith : — 

" Something attempted, something done. 
Has earned a night's repose.'" 

"X Douglass found his people enslaved and oppressed. He has given 
the best years of his life to the improvement of their condition, and, 
now that he looks back upon his labors, may he not say he has 
''attempted " and "done" something? and may he not claim the 
"repose" which ought to come in the evening of a well spent 

The first twenty -three years of Douglass' life were twenty-three 
years of slavery, obscurity, and degradation, yet doubtless in time 
to come these years will be regarded by the student of history the 
most interesting portion of his life ; to those who in the future 
would know the inside history of American slavery, this part of his 
life will be specially instructive. Plantation life at Tuckahoe as 
related by him is not fiction, it is fact ; it is not the historian's dis- 
sertation on slavery, it is slavery itself, the slave's life, acts, and 
thoughts, and the life, acts, and thoughts of those around him. It 
is Macauley ( I think) wlio says that a copy of a daily newspaper 
[if there were such] published at Rome would give more informa- 
tion and be of more value than any history we have. So, too, this 


photographic view of slave life as given to us in the autobiography 
of an ex-slave will give to the reader a clearer insight of the system 
of slavery than can be gained from the examination of general history. 

Col. Lloyd's plantation, where Douglass belonged, was very much 
like other plantations of the south. Here was the great house and 
the cabins, the old Aunties, and patriarchal Uncles, little picannin- 
ics and picanninies not so little, of every shade of complexion, from 
ebony black to whiteness of the master race ; mules, overseers, and 
broken down fences. Here was the negro Doctor learned in the 
science of roots and herbs ; also the black conjurer with his divina- 
tion. Here was slave-breeding and slave-selling, whipping, tortur- 
ing and beating to death. All this came under the observation of 
Douglass and is a part of the education he received while under the 
yoke of bondage. He was there in the midst of this confusion, 
ignorance, and brutality. Little did the overseer on this plantation 
think that he had in his gang a man of superior order and un- 
daunted spirit, whose mind, far above the minds of the grovelling 
creatures about him, was at that very time plotting schemes for his 
liberty ; nor did the thought ever enter the mind of Col. Lloyd, 
the rich slaveholder, that he had upon his estate one who was des- 
tined to assail the system of slavery with more power and effect 
than any other person. 

Douglass' fame will rest mainly, no doubt, upon his oratory. 
His powers in this direction are very great, and, in some respects, 
unparalleled by our living speakers. His oratory is his own, and 
apparently formed after the model of no single person. It is not 
after the Edmund Burke style, which has been so closely followed 
by Everett, Sumner, and others, and which has resulted in giving 
us splendid and highly embellished essays rather than natural and 
not overwrought speeches. If his oratory must be classified, it 
should be placed somewhere between the Fox and Henry Clay 
schools. Like Clay, Douglass' greatest effect is upon his immediate 
hearers, those who see him and feel his presence, and, like Clay, a 
good part of his oratorical fame will be tradition. The most strik- 
ing feature of Douglass' oratory is his fire, not the quick and 
flashy kind, but the steady and intense kind. Years ago, on the 
anti-slavery platform, in some sudden and unbidden outburst of 
passion and indignation, he has been known to awe-inspire his lis- 
teners as though ^tna were there. 

If oratory consists of the power to move men by spoken words, 
Douglass is a complete orator. He can make men laugh or cry, at 


his will. He has power of statement, logic, withering denuncia- 
tion, pathos, humor, and inimitable wit. Daniel Webster, with his 
immense intellectuality, had no humor, not a particle. It does not 
appear that he could even see the point of a joke. Douglass is 
brim full of humor, at times, of the dryest kind. It is of a quiet 
kind. You can see it coming a long way off in a peculiar twitch of 
his mouth. It increases and broadens gradually until it becomes 
irresistible and all-pervading with his audience. 

Douglass' rank as a writer is high, and justly so. His writings, 
if anything, are more meritorious than his speaking. For many 
years he was the editor of newspapers, doing all of the editorial 
work. He has contributed largely to magazines. He is a forcible 
and thoughtful writer. His style is pure and graceful, and he has 
great felicity of expression. His written productions, in finish, 
compare favorably with the written productions of our most culti- 
vated writers. His style comes partly, no doubt, from his long and 
constant practice, but the true source is his clear mind, which is 
well stored by a close acquaintance with the best authors. His 
range of reading has been wide and extensive. [He has been a hard 
student. In every sense of the word, he is a self-made man?^ By 
dint of hard study he has educated himself, and to-day it may be 
said he has a well-trained intellect. He has surmounted the disad- 
vantage of not having a university education, by application and 
well-directed effort. He seems to have realized the fact, that to 
one who is anxious to become educated and is really in earnest, it is 
not positively necessary to go to college, and that information may 
be had outside of college walks; books may be obtained and read 
elsewhere. They are not chained to desks in college libraries, as 
they were in early times at Oxford. Professors' lectures may be 
bought already printed, learned doctors may be listened to in the 
lyceum, and the printing-press has made it easy and cheap to get 
information on every subject and topic that is discussed and taught 
in the university. Douglass never made the mistake (a common 
one) of considering that his education was finished. He has con- 
tinued to study, he studies now, and is a growing man, and at this 
present moment he is a stronger man intellectually than ever 

Soon after Douglass' escape from Maryland to the Northern 
States, he commenced his public career. It was at New Bedford, 
as a local Methodist preacher, and by taking part in small public 
meetings held by colored people, wherein anti-slavery and other 


matters were discussed. There he laid the foundation of the splen- 
did career which is now about drawing to a close. In these meet- 
ings Douglass gave evidence that he possessed uncommon powers, 
and it was plainly to be seen that he needed only a field and oppor- 
tunity to display them. That field and opportunity soon came, as 
it always does to possessors of genius. He became a member and 
agent of the American Anti-Slavery society. Then commenced his 
great crusade against slavery in behalf of his oppressed brethren at 
the South. 

He waged violent and unceasing war against slavery. He went 
through every town and hamlet in the Free States, raising his voice 
against the iniquitous system. 

Just escaped from the prison-house himself, to tear down the 
walls of the same and to let the oppressed go free was the mission 
which engaged the powers of his soul and body. North, East, and 
West, all through the land went this escaped slave, delivering his 
warning message against the doomed cities of the South. The 
ocean did not stop nor hinder him. Across the Atlantic he went, 
through England, Ireland, and Scotland. Wherever people could 
be found to listen to his story, he pleaded the cause of his enslaved 
and down-trodden brethren with vehemence and great power. 
From 1840 to 1861, the time of the commencement of the civil 
war, which extirpated slavery in this country, Douglass was continu- 
ally speaking on the platform, writing for his newspaper and for 
magazines, or working in conventions for the abolition of slavery. 

The life and work of Douglass has been a complete vindication 
of the colored people in this respect. It has refuted and over- 
thrown the position taken by some writers, that colored people 
were deficient in mental qualifications and were incapable of attain- 
ing high intellectual position. We may reasonably expect to hear 
no more of this now, the argument is exploded. Douglass has set- 
tled the fact the right way, and it is something to settle a fact. 

That Douglass is a brave man there can be little doubt. He has 
physical as well as moral courage. His encounter with the over- 
seer of the eastern shore plantation attests his pluck. There the 
odds were against him, everything was against him. There the 
unwritten rule of law was, that the negro who dared to strike a 
white man must be killed ; but Douglass fought the overseer and 
whipped him. His plotting with other slaves to escape, writing 
and giving them passes, and the unequal and desperate fight main- 
tained by him in the Baltimore ship yard, where law and public 


sentiment were against him, also show that he has courage. But 
since the day of his slavery, while living here at the North, many 
instances have happened which show very plainly that he is a man 
of courage and determination. If he had not been, he would have 
long since succumbed to the brutality and violence of the low and 
mean-spirited people found in the Free States. 

Up to a very recent date it has been deemed quite safe, even here 
in the North, to insult and impose on inoffensive colored people, to 
elbow a colored man from the sidewalk, to jeer at him and apply 
vile epithets to him. In some localities this has been the rule and 
not the exception, and to put him out of public conveyances and 
public places by force was of common occurrence. It made little 
difference that the colored man was decent, civil, and respectably 
clad, and had paid his fare. If the proprietor of the place or his 
patrons took the notion that the presence of the colored man was 
an affront to their dignity or inconsistent with their notions of self- 
respect, out he must go. Nor must he stand upon the order of his 
going, but go at once. It was against this feeling that Douglass 
had to contend. He met it often. He was a prominent colored 
man traveling from place to place. A good part of the time he 
was in strange cities, stopping at strange taverns — that is, when he 
was allowed to stop. Time and again has he been refused accom- 
modation in hotels. Time and again has he been in a strange place 
with nowhere to lay his head until some kind anti-slavery person 
would come forward and give him shelter. 

The writer of this remembers well, because he was present and 
saw the transaction, the John Brown meeting in Tremont Temple, 
in 1860, when a violent mob, composed of the rough element from 
the slums of the city, led and encouraged by bankers and brokers, 
came into the hall to break up the meeting. Douglass was presid- 
ing. The mob was armed ; the police were powerless ; the mayor 
could not or would not do anything. On came the mob, surging 
through the aisles, over benches, and upon the platform. The 
women in the audience became alarmed and fled. The hirelings 
were prepared to do anything ; they had the power and could with 
impunity. Douglass sat upon the platform with a few chosen 
spirits, cool and undaunted. The mob had got about and around 
him. He did not heed their howling nor was he moved by their 
threats. It was not until their leader, a rich banker, with his fol- 
lowers, had mounted the platform and wrenched the chair from 
under him that he was dispossessed. By main force and personal 


violence (Douglass resisting all the time) they removed him from 
the platform. 

It affords me great pleasure to introduce to the public this book, 
"The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass." I am glad of the 
opportunity to present a work which tells the story of the rise and 
progress of our most celebrated colored man. To the names of 
Toussaint L'Overture and Alexander Dumas is to be added that of 
Frederick Douglass. We point with pride to this trio of illustrious 
names. I bid my follow countrymen take new hope and courage. 
The near future will bring us other men of worth and genius, and 
our list of illustrious names will become lengthened. Until that 
time the duty is to work and wait. 






Author's place of birth — Description of country — Its inhabitants — 
Genealogical trees — Method of counting time in slave districts — 
Date of author's birth — Names of grandparents — Their cabin — 
Home with them — Slave practice of separating mothers from their 
children — Author's recollections of his mother — Who was his 


IN Talbot County, Eastern Shore, State of Maryland, 
near Easton, the county town, there is a small district 
of country, thinly populated, and remarkable for nothing 
that I know of more than for the worn-out, sandy, desert- 
like appearance of its soil, the general dilapidation of 
its farms and fences, the indigent and spiritless character 
of its inhabitants, and the prevalence of ague and fever. 
It was in this dull, flat, and unthrifty district or neighbor- 
hood, bordered by the Choptank river, among the laziest 
and muddiest of streams, surrounded by a white popula- 
tion of the lowest order, indolent and drunken to a pro- 
verb, and among slaves who, in point of ignorance and 
indolence, were fully in accord with their surroundings, 
that I, without any fault of my own, was born, and spent 
the first years of my childhood. 

The reader must not expect me to say much of my 
family. Genealogical trees did not flourish among slaves. 
A person of some consequence in civilized society, some- 
times designated as father, was literally unknown to 
2 (25) 


slave law and slave practice. I never met with a 
slave in that part of the country who could tell me with 
any certainty how old he was. Few at that time knew 
anything of the months of the year or of the days of the 
month. They measured the ages of their children by 
spring-time, winter-time, harvest-time, planting-time, and 
the like. Masters allowed no questions to be put to them 
by slaves concerning their ages. Such questions were 
regarded by the masters as evidence of an impudent curi- 
osity. From certain events, however, the dates of which 
I have since learned, I suppose myself to have been born 
in February, 1817. 

My first experience of life, as I now remember it, and I 
remember it but hazily, began in the family of my grand- 
mother and grandfather, Betsey and Isaac Bailey. They 
were considered old settlers in the neighborhood, and 
from certain circumstances I infer that my grandmother, 
especially, was held in high esteem, far higher than was 
the lot of most colored persons in that region. She was 
a good nurse, and a capital hand at making nets used for 
catching shad and herring, and was, withal, somewhat 
famous as a fisherwoman. I have known her to be in 
the water waist deep, for hours, seine-hauling. She was 
a gardener as well as a fisherwoman, and remarkable for 
her success in keeping her seedling sweet potatoes through 
the months of winter, and easily got the reputation of 
being born to " good Hick." In planting-time Grand- 
mother Betsey was sent for in all directions, simply to 
place the seedling potatoes in tlie hills or drills ; for 
superstition had it that her touch was needed to make 
them grow. This reputation was full of advantage to her 
and her grandchildren, for a good crop, after her plant- 
ing for the neighbors, brought her a share of the har- 

Whether because she was too old for field service, or 


because slie had so faithfully discharged the duties of her 
station in early life, I know not, but she enjoyed the high 
privilege of living in a cabin separate from the quarters, 
having only the charge of the young children and the bur- 
den of her own support imposed upon her. She esteemed 
it great good fortune to live so, and took much comfort 
in having the children. The practice of separating 
mothers from their children and hiring them out at dis- 
tances too great to admit of their meeting, save at long 
intervals, was a marked feature of the cruelty and bar- 
barity of the slave system ; but it was in harmony with 
the grand aim of that system, which always and every- 
where sought to reduce man to a level with the brute. It 
liad no interest in recognizing or preserving any of the 
ties that bind families together or to their homes. 

My grandmother's five daughters were hired out in this 
way, and my only recollections of my own mother are of 
a few hasty visits made in the night on foot, after the 
daily tasks were over, and when she was under the neces- 
sity of returning in time to respond to the driver's call to 
the field in the early morning. These little glimpses of 
my mother, obtained under such circumstances and 
against such odds, meager as they were, are ineffaceably 
stamped upon my memory. She was tall and finely pro- 
portioned, of dark, glossy complexion, with regular fea- 
tures, and amongst the slaves was remarkably sedate and 
dignified. There is, in " Prichard's Natural History of 
Man," the head of a figure, on page 157, the features of 
which so resemble my mother that I often recur to it 
with something of the feelings which I suppose others ex- 
perience when looking upon the likenesses of their own 
dear departed ones. 

Of my father I know nothing. Slavery had no recog- 
nition of fathers, as none of families. That the mother 
was a slave was enough for its deadly purpose. By its 


law the child followed the condition of its mother. The 
father might be a freeman and the child a slave. The 
father might be a white man, glorying in the purity of his 
Anglo-Saxon blood, and the child ranked with the blackest 
slaves. Father he might be, and not be husband, and 
could sell his own child without incurring reproach, if in 
its veins coursed one drop of African blood. 



Author's early home — Its charms — Author's ignorance of "old mas- 
ter" — His gradual perception of the truth concerning him — His 
relations to Col. Edward Lloyd — Author's removal to "old mas- 
ter's " home — His journey thence — His separation from his grand- 
mother — Plis grief. 

LIVING thus with my grandmother, whose kindness 
and love stood in place of my mother's, it was some 
time before I knew myself to be a slave. I knew many 
other things before I knew that. Her little cabin 
liad to me the attractions of a palace. Its fence-railed 
floor — which was equally floor and bedstead — up stairs, 
and its clay floor down stairs, its dirt and straw chimney, 
and windowless sides, and that most curious piece of 
workmanship, the ladder stairway, and the hole so strange- 
ly dug in front of the fire-place, beneath which grand- 
mamma placed her sweet potatoes, to keep them from 
frost in winter, were full of interest to my childish obser- 
vation. The squirrels, as they skipped the fences, 
climbed the trees, or gathered their nuts, were an unceas- 
ing delight to me. There, too, right at the side of the 
hut, stood the old well, with its stately and skyward- 
pointing beam, so aptly placed between the limbs of what 
had once been a tree, and so nicely balanced, that I could 
move it up and down with only one hand, and could get a 
drink myself without calling for help. Nor were these all 
tlie attractions of the place. At a little distance stood 
Mr. Lee's mill, where the people came in large numbers 
to get their corn ground. I can never tell the many 



tilings thought and felt, as I sat on the bank and watched 
that mill, and the turning of its ponderous wheel. The 
mill-pond, too, had its charms ; and with my pin-hook 
and thread line, I could get amusing nibbles if I could 
catch no fish. 

It was not long, however, before I began to learn the 
sad fact that this house of my childhood belonged not to 
my dear old grandmother, but to some one I had never 
seen, and who lived a great distance off*. I learned, too, 
the sadder fact, that not only the home and lot, but that 
grandmother herself and all the little children around 
her belonged to a mysterious personage, called by grand- 
mother, with every mark of reverence, '" Old Master." 
Thus early did clouds and shadows begin to fall upon my 

I learned that this old master, whose name seemed 
ever to be mentioned with fear and shuddering, only 
allowed the little children to live with grandmother for a 
limited time, and that as soon as they were big enough 
they were promptly taken away to live with the said old 
master. These were distressing revelations, indeed. My 
grandmother was all the world to me, and the thought of 
being separated from her was a most unwelcome sugges- 
tion to my affections and hopes. This mysterious old 
master was really a man of some consequence. He 
owned several farms in Tuckahoe, was the chief clerk 
and butler on the home plantation of Colonel Lloyd, had 
overseers as well as slaves on his own farms, and gave 
directions to the overseers on the farms owned by Colonel 
Lloyd. Captain Aaron Anthony, for such is the name 
and title of my old master, lived on Colonel Lloyd's plan- 
tation, which was situated on the Wye river, and which 
was one of the largest, most fertile, and best appointed 
in the State. 

About this plantation and this old master I was most 


eager to know everything which could be known ; 
and, unhappily for me, all the information I could get 
concerning him increased my dread of being separated 
from my grandmother and grandfather. I wished it was 
possible I could remain small all my life, knowing that 
the sooner I grew large the shorter would be my time to 
remain with them. Everything about the cabin became 
doubly dear, and I was sure there could be no other spot 
equal to it on earth. But the time came when I m'ust go, 
and my grandmother, knowing my fears, in pity for 
them, kindly kept me ignorant of the dreaded moment 
up to the morning (a beautiful summer morning) when 
we were to start ; and, indeed, during the whole journey, 
which, child as I was, I remember as well as if it were 
yesterday, she kept the unwelcome truth hidden from me. 
The distance from Tuckahoe to Colonel Lloyd's, where 
my old master lived, was full twelve miles, and the walk 
was quite a severe test of the endurance of my young 
legs. The journey would have proved too severe for me, 
but that my dear old grandmother (blessings on her 
memory) afforded occasional relief by "toteing" me on 
her shoulder. Advanced in years as she was, as was evi- 
dent from the more than one gray hair which peeped 
from between the ample and graceful folds of her newly 
and smoothly-ironed bandana turban, grandmother was 
yet a woman of power and spirit. She was remarkably 
straight in figure, elastic and muscular in movement. I 
seemed hardly to be a burden to her. She would have 
*' toted" me farther, but I felt myself too much of a m'an 
to allow it. Yet while I walked I was not independent 
of her. She often found me holding her skirts lest 
something should come out of the woods and eat me up. 
Several old logs and stumps imposed upon me, and got 
themselves taken for enormous animals. I could plainly 
see their legs, eyes, ears, and teeth, till I got close 


enough to sec that the eyes were knots, washed white 
witli rain, and the legs were l)roken limhs, and the ears 
and teeth only such because of the point from which they 
were seen. 

As the day advanced the heat increased, and it was not 
until the afternoon that we reached the much-dreaded 
end of the journey. Here I found myself in the midst 
of a group of children of all sizes and of many colors, — 
black, brown, copper-colored, and nearly white. I had 
not seen so many children before. As a new-comer I 
was an object of special interest. After laughing and 
yelling around me and playing all sorts of wild tricks, 
they asked me to go out and play with them. This I 
refused to do. Grandmamma looked sad, and I could 
not help feeling that our being there boded no good to 
me. She was soon to lose another object of affection, 
as she had lost many before. Affectionately patting me 
on the head, she told me to be a good boy and go out to 
play with the children. They are " kin to you," she said, 
"go and play with them." She pointed out to me my 
brother Perry, my sisters, Sarah and Eliza. I had never 
seen them before, and though I had sometimes heard of 
them and felt a curious interest in them, I really did not 
understand what they were to me or I to them. Broth- 
ers and sisters we were by blood, but slavery had made 
us strangers. They were already initiated into the mys- 
teries of old master's domicile, and they seemed to look 
upon me with a certain degree of compassion. I really 
wanted to play with them, but they were strangers to me, 
and I was full of fear that my grandmother might leave 
for home without taking me with her. Entreated to do 
so, however, and that, too, by my dear grandmother, I 
went to the back part of the house to play with them and 
the other children. Play, however, I did not, but stood 
with my back against the wall witnessing the playing of 


the others. At last, while standing there, one of the 
children, who had been in the kitchen, ran up to me in a 
sort of roguish glee, exclaiming, "Fed, Fed, grand- 
mamma gone ! " I could not believe it. Yet, fearing the 
worst, I ran into the kitchen to see for myself, and lo ! 
she was indeed gone, and was now far away, and "clean'' 
out of sight. I need not tell all that happened now. 
Almost heart-broken at the discovery, I fell upon the 
ground and wept a boy's bitter tears, refusing to be com- 
forted. My brother gave me peaches and pears to quiet 
me, but I promptly threw them on the ground. I had 
never been deceived before, and something of resentment 
at this mingled with my grief at parting with my grand- 

It was now late in the afternoon. The day had been 
an exciting and wearisome one, and I know not where, 
but I suppose I sobbed myself to sleep ; and its balm was 
never more welcome to any wounded soul than to mine. 
The reader may be surprised that I relate so minutely an 
incident apparently so trivial, and which must have 
occurred when I was less than seven years old ; but, as I 
wish to give a faithful history of my experience in slav- 
ery, I cannot withhold a circumstance which at the time 
affected me so deeply, and which I still remember so 
vividly. Besides, this was my first introduction to the 
realities of the slave system. 



Col. Lloyd's plantation — Aunt Katy — Her cruelty and ill-nature — 
Capt. Anthony's partiality to Aunt Katy — Allowance of food — 
Author's hunger — Unexpected rescue by his mother — The reproof 
of Aunt Katy — Sleep — A slave-mother's love — Author's inheritance 
— His mother's acquirements — Her death. 

ONCE established on the home plantation of Col. 
Lloyd — I was with the children there, left to the 
tender mercies of Aunt Katy, a slave woman, who was to 
my master what he was to Col. Lloyd. Disposing of us in 
classes or sizes, he left to Aunt Katy all the minor details 
concerning our naanagement. She was a woman who 
never allowed herself to act greatly within the limits of 
delegated power, no matter how broad that authority 
might be. Ambitious of old master's favor, ill-tempered 
and cruel by nature, she found in her present position an 
ample field for the exercise of her ill-omened qualities. 
She had a strong hold upon old master, for she was a 
first-rate cook, and very industrious. She was therefore 
greatly favored by him — and as one mark of his favor she 
was the only mother who was permitted to retain her 
children around her, and even to these, her own children, 
she was often fiendish in her brutality. Cruel, however, 
as she sometimes was to her own children, she was not 
destitute of maternal feeling, and in her instinct to satisfy 
their demands for food she was often guilty of starving 
me and the other children. Want of food was my chief 
trouble during my first summer here. Captain Anthony, 
instead of allowing a given quantity of food to each slave, 



committed the allowance for all to Aunt Katy, to be di- 
vided by her, after cooking, amongst us. The allowance 
consisted of coarse corn-meal, not very abundant, and 
which, by passing through Aunt Katy's hands, became more 
slender still for some of us. I have often been so pinched 
with hunger as to dispute with old " Nep," the dog, for 
tlie crumbs wdiich fell from the kitchen table. Many 
times have I followed, with eager step, the waiting-girl 
when she shook the table-cloth, to get the crumbs and 
small bones flung out for the dogs and cats. It was a 
great thing to have the privilege of dipping a piece of 
bread into the water in which meat had been boiled, and 
the skin taken from the rusty bacon was a positive lux- 
ury. With this description of the domestic arrangements 
of my new home, I may here recount a circumstance 
which is deeply impressed on my memory, as affording a 
bright gleam of a slave-mother's love, and the earnestness 
of a mother's care. I had offended Aunt Katy. I do 
not remember in what way, for my offences were numer- 
ous in that quarter, greatly depending upon her moods as 
to their heinousness, and she had adopted her usual mode 
of punishing me : namely, making me go all day without 
food. For the first hour or two after dinner time, I suc- 
ceeded pretty well in keeping up my spirits ; but as the 
day wore away, I found it quite impossible to do so any 
longer. Sundown came, but no bread ; and in its stead 
came the threat from Aunt Katy, witli a scowl well-suited 
to its terrible import, that she would starve the life out 
of me. Brandishing her knife, she chopped off the heavy 
slices of bread for the other children, and put the l®af 
away, muttering all the while her savage designs upon 
myself. Against this disappointment, for I was expect- 
ing that her heart would relent at last, I made an extra 
effort to maintain my dignity, but when I saw the other 
children around me with satisfied faces, I could stand it 

36 MY mother's visit. 

no longer. I went out behind the kitchen wall and cried 
like a fine fellow. When wearied with tliis, I returned 
to the kitchen, sat by the fire and brooded over my hard 
lot. I was too hungry to sleep. While I sat in the cor- 
ner, I caught sight of an ear of Indian corn upon an 
upper shelf. I w^atcked my chance and got it ; and shell- 
ing off a few grains, I put it back again. These grains I 
quickly put into the hot aslies to roast. I did this at the 
risk of getting a brutal thumping, for Aunt Katy could 
beat as well as starve me. My corn was not long in roast- 
ing, and I eagerly pulled it from the aslies, and placed it 
upon a stool in a clever little pile. I began to help my- 
self, when who but my own dear mother should come in. 
The scene which followed is beyond my power to describe. 
The friendless and hungry boy, in his extremest need, 
found himself in the strong, protecting arms of his 
mother. I have before spoken of my mother's dignified 
and impressive manner. I shall never forget the inde- 
scribable expression of her countenance when I told her 
that Aunt Katy had said she would starve the life out of 
me. There was deep and tender pity in her glance at me, 
and a fiery indignation at Aunt Katy at the same moment, 
and while she took the corn from me, and gave in its 
stead a large ginger-cake, she read Aunt Katy a lecture 
which was never forgotten. That night I learned as I 
had never learned before, that I was not only a child, but 
somebody's child. I was grander upon my mother's knee 
than a king upon his throne. But my triumph was short. 
I dropped off to sleep, and waked in the morning to find 
my mother gone and myself at the mercy again of the 
virago in my master's kitchen, whose fiery wrath was my 
constant dread. 

My mother had walked twelve miles to see me, and had 
the same distance to travel over again before the morning 
sunrise. I do not remember ever seeing her again. Her 

The Last Time he saw his Mother. 


death soon ended the little communication that had ex- 
isted between us, and with it, I believe, a life full of 
weariness and heartfelt sorrow. To me it has ever been 
a grief that I knew my mother so little, and have so few 
of her words treasured in my remembrance. I have since 
learned that she was the only one of all the colored peo- 
ple of Tuckahoe who could read. How she acquired this 
knowledge I know not, for Tuckahoe was the last place 
in the world where she would have been likely to find 
facilities for learning. I can therefore fondly and proudly 
ascribe to her an earnest love of knowledge. That a 
field-hand should learn to read in any slave State is re- 
markable, but the achievement of my mother, consider- 
ing the place and circumstances, was very extraordinary. 
In view of this fact, I am happy to attribute any love of 
letters I may have, not to my presumed Anglo-Saxon 
paternity, but to the native genius of my sable, unpro- 
tected, and uncultivated mother — a woman who belonged 
to a race whose mental endowments are still disparaged 
and despised. 



Home Plantation of Colonel Lloyd — Its Isolation — Its Industries — 
The Slave Rule — Power of Overseers — Author Finds some Enjoy- 
ment — Natural Scenery — Sloop " Sally Lloyd " — Wind Mill — Slave 
Quarter — "Old Master's" House — Stables, Store Houses, etc., etc. 
— The Great House — Its Surroundings — Lloyd — Burial-Place — 
Superstition of Slaves — Colonel Lloyd's Wealth — Negro Politeness 
— Doctor Copper — Captain Anthony — His Family — Master Daniel 
Lloyd — His Brothers — Social Etiquette. 

IT was generally supposed that slavery in the State of 
Maryland existed in its mildest form, and that it was 
totally divested of those harsh and terrible peculiarities 
which characterized the slave system in the Southern and 
South-Western States of the American Union. The 
ground of this opinion was the contiguity of the free 
States, and the influence of their moral, religious, and 
humane sentiments. Public opinion was, indeed, a meas- 
urable restraint upon the cruelty and barbarity of mas- 
ters, overseers, and slave-drivers, whenever and wherever 
it could reach them ; but there were certain secluded and 
out-of-the-way places, even in the State of Maryland, fifty 
years ago, seldom visited by a single ray of healthy pub- 
lic sentiment, where slavery, wrapt in its own congenial 
darkness, could and did develop all its malign and shock- 
ing characteristics, where it could be indecent witliout 
shame, cruel without shuddering, and murderous without 
apprehension or fear of exposure or punishment. Just 
such a secluded, dark, and out-of-the-way place was the 
home plantation of Colonel Edward Lloyd, in Talbot 
county, eastern shore of Maryland. It was far away 


COLONEL Lloyd's plantation. 41 

from all the great thoroughfares of travel and commerce, 
and proximate to no town or village. There was neither 
school-house nor town-house in its neighborhood. The 
school-house was unnecessary, for there were no children 
to go to school. The children and grandchildren of Col. 
Lloyd were taught in the house by a private tutor (a Mr. 
Page from Greenfield, Massachusetts, a tall, gaunt sap- 
ling of a man, remarkably dignified, thoughtful, and reti- 
cent, and who did not speak a dozen words to a slave in a 
whole year). The overseer's children went off some- 
where in the State to school, and therefore could bring 
no foreign or dangerous influence from abroad to embar- 
rass the natural operation of the slave system of the 
place. Not even the commonest mechanics, from whom 
tliere might have been an occasional outburst of honest 
and telling indignation at cruelty and wrong on other 
plantations, were white men here. Its whole public was 
made up of and divided into three classes, slaveholders, 
slaves, and overseers. Its blacksmiths, wheelwrights, 
shoemakers, weavers, and coopers were slaves. Not even 
commerce, selfish and indifferent to moral considerations 
as it usually is, was permitted within its secluded pre- 
cincts. Whether with a view of guarding against the 
escape of its secrets, I know not, but it is a fact, that 
every leaf and grain of the products of this plantation 
and those of the neighboring farms belonging to Col. 
Lloyd were transported to Baltimore in his own vessels, 
every man and boy on board of which, except the captain, 
were owned by him as his property. In return, every- 
thing brought to the plantation came through the same 
channel. To make this isolation more apparent, it may 
be stated that the adjoining estates to Col. Lloyd's were 
owned and occupied by friends of his, who were as 
deeply interested as himself in maintaining the slave sys- 
tem in all its rigor. These were the Tilgmans, the Gold- 



borouglis, the Lockcrmans, the Pacas, the Skinners, Gib- 
sons, and others of lesser afilueiice and standing. 

The fact is, public opinion in such a quarter, tlie reader 
must see, was not likely to be very efficient in protecting 
the slave from cruelty. To be a restraint upon abuses of 
this nature, opinion must emanate from humane and vir- 
tuous communities, and to no such opinion or influence 
was Col. Lloyd's plantation exposed. It was a little 
nation by itself, having its own language, its own rules, 
regulations, and customs. The troubles and controversies 
arising here were not settled by the civil power of the 
State. The overseer was the important dignitary. He 
was generally accuser, judge, jury, advocate, and execu- 
tioner. The criminal was always dumb, and no slave 
was allowed to testify other than against his brother 

There were, of course, no conflicting rights of prop- 
erty, for all the people were the property of one man, and 
they could themselves own no property. Religion and 
politics were largely excluded. One class of the popula- 
tion was too high to be reached by the common preacher, 
and the other class was too low in condition and igno- 
rance to be much cared for by religious teachers, and yet 
some religious ideas did enter this dark corner. 

This, however, is not the only view which the place 
presented. Though civilization was, in many respects, 
shut out, nature could not be. Though separated from 
the rest of the world, though public opinion, as I have 
said, could seldom penetrate its dark domain, though the 
whole place were stamped with its own peculiar iron-like 
individuality, and though crimes, high-handed and atro- 
cious, could be committed there with strange and shock- 
ing impunity, it was, to outward seeming, a most strik- 
ingly interesting place, full of life, activity, and spirit, 
and presented a very favorable contrast to the indolent 


monotony and languor of Tuckahoc. It resembled, in 
some respects, descriptions I have since read of the old 
baronial domains of Europe. Keen as was my regret 
and great as was my sorrow at leaving my old home, I 
was not long in adapting myself to this my new one. A 
man's troubles are always half disposed of when he finds 
endurance the only alternative. I found myself here, 
there was no getting away, and naught remained for me 
but to make the best of it. Here were plenty of children 
to play with and plenty of pleasant resorts for boys of 
my age and older. The little tendrils of affection, so 
rudely broken from the darling objects in and around my 
grandmother's home, gradually began to extend and 
twine themselves around the new surroundings. Here, 
for the first time, I saw a large windmill, with its wide- 
sweeping white wings, a commanding object to a child's 
eye. This was situated on what was called Long Point — 
a tract of land dividing Miles river from the Wye. I 
spent many hours here watching the wings of this won- 
drous mill. In the river, or what was called the 
"Swash," at a short distance from the shore, quietly 
lying at anchor, with her small row boat dancing at her 
stern, was a large sloop, the Sally Lloyd, called by that 
name in honor of the favorite daughter of the Colonel. 
These two objects, the sloop and mill, as I remember, 
awakened thoughts, ideas, and wondering. Then here 
were a great many houses, human habitations full of the 
mysteries of life at every stage of it. There was the lit- 
tle red house up the road, occupied by Mr. Seveir, the 
overseer. A little nearer to my old master's stood a 
long, low, rough building literally alive with slaves of all 
ages, sexes, conditions, sizes, and colors. This was 
called the long quarter. Perched upon a hil'i east of our 
house, was a tall, dilapidated old brick building, the 
architectural dimensions of which proclaimed its creation 


for a different purpose, now occupied by slaves, in a simi- 
lar manner to the long quarters. Besides these, there 
were numerous other slave houses and huts scattered 
around in the neighborhood, every nook and corner of 
which were completely occupied. 

Old master's house, a long brick building, plain but 
substantial, was centrally located, and was an independ- 
ent establishment. Besides these houses there were 
barns, stables, store-houses, tobacco-houses, blacksmith 
shops, wheelwright shops, cooper shops ; but above all 
there stood the grandest building my young eyes had 
ever beheld, called by every one on the plantation the 
great house. This was occupied by Col. Lloyd and his 
family. It was surrounded by numerous and variously- 
shaped out-buildings. There were kitchens, wash-houses, 
dairies, summer-houses, green-houses, hen-houses, turkey- 
houses, pigeon-houses, and arbors of many sizes and 
devices, all neatly painted or whitewashed, interspersed 
with grand old trees, ornamental and primitivCj which 
afforded delightful shade in summer and imparted to the 
scene a high degree of stately beauty. The great house 
itself was a large wliite wooden building with wings on 
three sides of it. In front a broad portico extended the 
entire length of the building, supported by a long range 
of columns, which gave to the Colonel's home an air of 
great dignity and grandeur. It was a treat to my young 
and gradually opening mind to behold this elaborate 
exhibition of wealth, power, and beauty. 

The carriage entrance to the house was by a large gate, 
more than a quarter of a mile distant. The intermediate 
space was a beautiful lawn, very neatly kept and cared 
for. It was dotted thickly over with trees and flowers. 
The road or lane from the gate to the great house was 
richly paved with white pebbles from the beach, and in its 
course formed a complete circle around the lawn. Out- 


side this select enclosure were parks, as about the resi- 
dences of the English nobility, where rabbits, deer, and 
other wild game might be seen peering and playing about, 
Avith " none to molest them or make them afraid.'' The 
tops of the stately poplars were often covered with red- 
winged blackbirds, making all nature vocal with the joy- 
ous life and beauty of their wild, warbling notes. These 
all belonged to me as well as to Col. Edward Lloyd, and, 
whether they did or not, I greatly enjoyed them. Not 
far from the great house were the stately mansions of the 
dead Lloyds — a place of somber aspect. Vast tombs, em- 
bowered beneath the weeping willow and the fir tree, told 
of the generations of the family, as well as their wealth. 
Superstition was rife among the slaves about this family 
burying-ground. Strange sights had been seen there by 
some of tlie older slaves, and I was often compelled to 
hear stories of shrouded ghosts, riding on great black 
horses, and of balls of fire which had been seen to fly 
there at midnight, and of startling and dreadful sounds 
that had been repeatedly heard. Slaves knew enough of 
the Orthodox theology at the time to consign all bad 
slaveholders to hell, and they often fancied such persons 
wishing themselves back again to wield the lash. Tales 
of sights and sounds strange and terrible, connected with 
the huge black tombs, were a great security to the grounds 
about them, for few of the slaves had the courage to ap- 
proach them during the day time. It was a dark, gloomy, 
and forbidding place, and it was difficult to feel that the 
spirits of the sleeping dust there deposited reigned with 
the blest in the realms of eternal peace. 

Here was transacted the business of twenty or thirty 
different farms, which, with the slaves upon them, num- 
bering, in all, not less than a thousand, all belonged to 
Col. Lloyd. Each farm was under the management of an 
overseer, whose word was law^ 


Mr. Lloyd at this time was very rich. His slaves alone, 
numbering as I have said not less than a thousand, were 
an immense fortune, and though scarcely a month passed 
without the sale of one or more lots to the Georgia 
traders, there was no apparent diminution in the number 
of his human stock. The selling of any to the State of 
Georgia was a sore and mournful event to those left be- 
hind, as well as to the victims themselves. 

The reader has already been informed of the handi- 
crafts carried on here by the slaves. " Uncle " Toney 
was the blacksmith, " Uncle " Harry the cartwright, and 
" Uncle " Abel was the shoemaker, and these had assist- 
ants in their several departments. These mechanics were 
called " Uncles " by all the younger slaves, not because 
they really sustained that relationship to any, but accord- 
ing to plantation etiquette, as a mark of respect, due from 
the younger to the older slaves. Strange and even ridicu- 
lous as it may seem, among a people so uncultivated and 
with so many stern trials to look in the face, there is not 
to be found among any people a more rigid enforcement 
of the law of respect to elders than is maintained among 
them. I set this down as partly constitutional with the 
colored race and partly conventional. There is no better 
material in the world for making a gentleman than is fur- 
nished in the African. 

Among other slave notabilities, I found here one called 
by everybody, white and colored, " Uncle " Isaac Copper. 
It was seldom that a slave, however venerable, was hon- 
ored with a surname in Maryland, and so completely has 
the south shaped the manners of the north in this respect 
that their right to such honor is tardily admitted even 
now. It goes sadly against the grain to address and treat 
a negro as one would address and treat a white man. But 
once in a while, even in a slave state, a negro had a sur- 
name fastened to him by common consent. This was the 


case with '' Uncle " Isaac Copper. When the " Uncle " 
was dropped, he was called Doctor Copper. He was both 
our Doctor of Medicine and our Doctor of Divinity. 
Where he took his degree I am unable to say, but he was 
too well established in his profession to permit question 
as to his native skill or attainments. One qualification 
he certainly had. He was a confirmed cripple, wholly 
unable to work, and was worth nothing for sale in the 
market. Though lame, he was no sluggard. He made 
his crutches do him good service, and was always on the 
alert looking up the sick, and such as were supposed to 
need his aid and counsel. His remedial prescriptions 
embraced four articles. For diseases of the body, epsom 
salts and castor oil ; for those of the soul, the " Lord's 
prayer," and a few stout hickory switches. 

I was early sent to Doctor Isaac Copper, with twenty 
or thirty other children, to learn the Lord's prayer. The 
old man was seated on a huge three-legged oaken stool, 
armed with several large hickory switches, and from the 
point where he sat, lame as he was, he could reach every 
boy in the room. After standing a while to learn what 
was expected of us, he commanded us to kneel dow^n. 
This done, he told us to say everything he said. " Our 
Father" — this we repeated after him with promptness 
and uniformity — " who art in Heaven," was less promptly 
and uniformly repeated, and the old gentleman paused in 
the prayer to give us a short lecture, and to use his 
switches on our backs. 

Everybody in the South seemed to want the privilege of 
whipping somebody else. Uncle Isaac, though a good old 
man, shared the common passion of his time and country. 
I cannot say I was much edified by attendance upon his 
ministry. There was even at that time something a little 
inconsistent and laughable, in my mind, in the blending 
of prayer with punishment. 


I was not long in my new home before I found that the 
dread 1 had conceived of Captain Anthony was in a meas- 
ure groundless. Instead of leaping out from some hiding- 
place and destroying me, he hardly seemed to notice my 
presence. He probably thought as little of my arrival 
there as of an additional pig to his stock. He was the 
chief agent of his employer. The overseers of all the 
farms composing the Lloyd estate were in some sort under 
him. The Colonel himself seldom addressed an overseer, 
or allowed himself to be addressed by one. To Captain 
Anthony, therefore, was committed the headship of all 
the farms. He carried the keys of all the store-houses, 
weighed and measured the allowances of each slave, at 
the end of each month ; superintended the storing of all 
goods brought to the store-house ; dealt out the raw ma- 
terial to the different handicraftsmen ; shipped the grain, 
tobacco, and all other saleable produce of the numerous 
farms to Baltimore, and had a general oversight of all the 
workshops of the place. In addition to all this he was 
frequently called abroad to Easton and elsewhere in 
the discharge of his numerous duties as chief agent of the 

The family of Captain Anthony consisted of two sons 
— Andrew and Richard, his daughter Lucretia and her 
newly-married husband. Captain Thomas Auld. In the 
kitchen were Aunt Katy, Aunt Esther, and ten or a dozen 
children, most of them older than myself. Captain An- 
thony was not considered a rich slave-holder, though he 
was pretty well off in the world. He owned about thirty 
slaves and three farms in the Tuckahoe district. The 
more valuable part of his property was in slaves, of 
whom he sold one every year, which brought him in 
seven or eight hundred dollars, besides his yearly salary 
and other revenue from his lands. 


I have been often asked, during tlie earlier part of my 
free life at the North, how I happened to have so little of 
the slave accent in my speech. The mystery is in some 
measure explained by my association with Daniel Lloyd, 
the youngest son of Col. Edward Lloyd. The law of 
compensation holds here as well as elsewhere. While 
this lad could not associate with ignorance without shar- 
ing its shade, he could not give his black playmates his 
company without giving them his superior intelligence as 
well. Without knowing this, or caring about it at the 
time, I, for some cause or other, was attracted to him, 
and was much his companion. 

I had little to do with the older brothers of Daniel — 
Edward and Murray. They were grown up and were fine- 
looking men. Edward was especially esteemed by the 
slave children, and by me among the rest — not that he 
ever said anything to us or for us which could be called 
particularly kind. It was enough for us that he never 
looked or acted scornfully toward us. The idea of rank 
and station was rigidly maintained on this estate. The 
family of Captain Anthony never visited the great house, 
and the Lloyds never came to our house. Equal non- 
intercourse was observed between Captain Anthony's fam- 
ily and the family of Mr. Seveir, the overseer. 

Such, kind readers, was the community and such the 
place in which my earliest and most lasting impressions 
of the workings of slavery were received, of which 
inipressions you will learn more in the after coming chap- 
ters of this book. 



Increasing acquaintance with old Master — Evils of unresisted passion 
— Apparent tenderness — A man of trouble — Custom of muttering to 
himself — Brutal outrage — A drunken overseer — Slaveholder's impa- 
tience — Wisdom of appeal— A base and selfish attempt to break up 
a courtship. 

ALTHOUGH my old master, Captain Anthony, gave 
me, at the first of my coming to him from my 
grandmother's, very little attention, and although that 
little was of a remarkably mild and gentle description, a 
few months only were sufficient to convince me that 
mildness and gentleness were not the prevailing or gov- 
erning traits of his character. These excellent qualities 
were displayed only occasionally. He could, when it 
suited him, appear to be literally insensible to the claims 
of humanity. He could not only be deaf to the appeals 
of the helpless against the aggressor, but he could him- 
self commit outrages deep, dark, and nameless. Yet he 
was not by nature worse than other men. Had he been 
brought up in a free state, surrounded by the full 
restraints of civilized society — restraints which are neces- 
sary to the freedom of all its members, alike and equally, 
Capt. Anthony might have been as humane a man as are 
members of such society generally. A man's character 
always takes its hue, more or less, from the form and 
color of things about him. The slaveholder, as well as 
the slave, was the victim of the slave system. Under 
the whole heavens tliere could be no relation more unfa- 
vorable to the development of honorable character than 


A slaveholder's character. 51 

that sustained by the slaveholder .to the slave. Reason 
is imprisoned here, and passions run wild. Could the 
reader have seen Captain Anthony gently leading me by 
the hand, as he sometimes did, patting me on the head, 
speaking to me in soft, caressing tones, and calling me 
his little Indian boy, he would have deemed him a kind- 
hearted old man, and really almost fatherly to the slave 
boy. But the pleasant moods of a slaveholder are tran- 
sient and fitful. They neither come often nor remain 
long. The temper of the old man was subject to special 
trials ; but since these trials were never borne patiently, 
they added little to his natural stock of patience. Aside 
from his troublos with his slaves and those of Mr. Lloyd, 
he made the impression upon me of being an unhappy 
man. Even to my child's eye he wore a troubled and at 
times a haggard aspect. His strange movements excited 
my curiosity and awakened my compassion. He seldom 
walked alone without muttering to himself, and he occa- 
sionally stormed about as if defying an army of invisible 
foes. Most of his leisure was spent in walking around, 
cursing and gesticulating as if possessed by a demon. 
He was evidently a wretched man, at war with his own 
soul and all the world around him. To be overheard by 
the children disturbed him very little. He made no more 
of our presence than that of the ducks and geese he met 
on the green. But when his gestures were most violent, 
ending with a threatening shake of the head and a sharp 
snap of his middle finger and thumb, I deemed it wise to 
keep at a safe distance from him. 

One of the first circumstances that opened my eyes to 
the cruelties and wickedness of slavery and its hardening 
influences upon my old master, was his refusal to inter- 
pose his authority to protect and shield a young woman, 
a cousin of mine, who had been most cruelly abused and 
beaten by his overseer in Tuckahoe. This overseer, a 


Mr. Plummcr, was, like most of his class, little less than 
a human l^rute ; and, in addition to his general profligacy 
and repulsive coarseness, he was a miserable drunkard, a 
man not fit to have the management of a drove of mules. 
In one of his moments of drunken madness he committed 
the outrage which brought the young woman in question 
down to my old master's for protection. The poor girl, 
on her arrival at our house, presented a most pitiable 
appearance. She had left in haste and without prepara- 
tion, and probably without the knowledge of Mr. Plum- 
mer. She had traveled twelve miles, barefooted, bare- 
necked, and bare-headed. Her neck and shoulders were 
covered with scars, newly made ; and, not content with 
marring her neck and shoulders with the cowhide, the 
cowardly wretch had dealt her a blow on the head with a 
hickory club, which cut a horrible gash, and left her face 
literally covered with blood. In this condition the poor 
young woman came down to implore protection at the 
hands of my old master. I expected to see him boil over 
with rage at the revolting deed, and to hear him fill 
the air with curses upon the brutal Plummcr; but I 
was disappointed. He sternly told her in an angry tone, 
" She deserved every bit of it, and if she did not go 
home instantly he would himself take the remaining 
skin from her neck and back." Thus the poor girl was 
compelled to return without redress, and perhaps to 
receive an additional flogging for daring to appeal to 
authority higher tlian that of the overseer. 

I did not at that time understand the philosophy of 
this treatment of my cousin. I think I now understand 
J it. This treatment was a part of the system, rather than 
a part of the man. To have encouraged appeals of this 
kind would have occasioned much loss of time, and leave 
the overseer powerless to enforce obedience. Neverthe- 
less, when a slave had nerve enough to go straight to his 


master with a well-founded complaint against an over- 
seer, though he might be repelled, and have even that of 
which he complained at the time repeated, and though he 
might be beaten by his master, as well as by the over- 
seer, for his temerity, in the end, the policy of complain- 
ing was generally vindicated by the relaxed rigor of the 
overseer's treatment. The latter became more careful 
and less disposed to use the lash upon such slaves there- 

The overseer very naturally disliked to have the ear of 
the master disturbed by complaints; and, either for this 
reason or because of advice privately given him by his 
employer, he generally modified the rigor of his rule after 
complaints of this kind had been made against him. 
For some cause or other, the slaves, no matter how often 
they were repulsed by their masters, were ever disposed 
-^to regard them with less abhorrence than the overseer. 
And yet these masters would often go beyond their over- 
seers in w^anton cruelty. They wielded the lash without 
any sense of responsibility. They could cripple or kill 
without fear of consequences. I have seen my old mas- 
ter in a tempest of wrath, full of pride, hatred, jealousy, 
and revenge, where he seemed a very fiend. 

The circumstances w^hicli I am about to narrate, and 
which gave rise to this fearful tempest of passion, were 
not singular, but very common in our slave-holding com- 

The reader will have noticed that among the names of 
slaves Esther is mentioned. This was a young woman 
who possessed that which was ever a curse to the slave 
girl — namely, personal beauty. She was tall, light-col- 
ored, well formed, and made a fine appearance. Esther 
was courted by " Ned Roberts," the son of a favorite slave 
of Col. Lloyd, who was as fine-looking a young man as 
Esther was a woman. Some slave-holders would have 


been glad to have promoted the marriage of two such per- 
sons, but for some reason Captain Anthony disapproved 
of their courtship. He strictly ordered her to quit the 
company of young Roberts, telling her that he would pun- 
ish her severely if he ever found her again in his com- 
pany. But it was impossible to keep this couple apart. 
Meet they would, and meet they did. Had Mr. Anthony 
himself been a man of honor, his motives in this matter 
might have appeared more favorably. As it was, they 
appeared as abhorrent as they were contemptible. It was 
one of the damning characteristics of slavery that it rob- 
bed its victims of every earthly incentive to a holy life. 
The fear of God and the hope of heaven were sufficient to 
sustain many slave women amidst the snares and dangers 
of their strange lot ; but they were ever at the mercy of 
the power, passion, and caprice of their owners. Slavery 
provided no means for the honorable perpetuation of the 
race. Yet, despite of this destitution, there were many 
men and women among the slaves who were true and 
faithful to each other through life. 

But to the case in hand. Abhorred and circumvented 
as he was. Captain Anthony, having the power, was de- 
termined on revenge. I happened to see its shocking exe- 
cution, and shall never ferget the scene. It was early in 
the morning, when all was still, and before any of the 
family in the house or kitchen had risen. I was, in fact, 
awakened by the heart-rending shrieks and piteous cries 
of poor Esther. My sleeping-place was on the dirt floor 
of a little rough closet which opened into the kitchen, and 
through the cracks in its unplaned boards I could dis- 
tinctly see and hear what was going on, without being 
seen. Esther's wrists were firmly tied, and the twisted 
rope was fastened to a strong iron staple in a heavy 
wooden beam above, near the fire-place. Here she stood 
on a bench, her arms tightly drawn above her head. Her 


back and shoulders were perfectly bare. Behind her 
stood old master, cowhide in hand, pursuing his barbar- 
ous work with all manner of harsh, coarse, and tantaliz- 
ing epithets. He was cruelly deliberate, and protracted 
the torture as one who was delighted with the agony of 
his victim. Again and again he drew the hateful scourge 
through his hand, adjusting it with a view of dealing the 
most pain-giving blow his strength and skill could inflict. 
Poor Esther had never before been severely whipped. 
Her shoulders were plump and tender. Each blow, vig- 
orously laid on, brought screams from her as well as 
blood. " Have mercy ! Oh, mercy ! " she cried. " I 
won't do so no more." But her piercing cries seemed only 
to increase his fury. The whole scene, with all its attend- 
ants, was revolting and shocking to the last degree, and 
when the motives for the brutal castigation are known, 
language has no power to convey a just sense of its dread- 
ful criminality. After laying on I dare not say how 
many stripes, old master untied his suffering victim. 
When let down she could scarcely stand. From my heart 
I pitied her, and child as I was, and new to such scenes, 
the shock was tremendous. I was terrified, hushed, 
stunned, and bewildered. The scene here described was 
often repeated, for Edward and Esther continued to 
meet, notwithstanding all efforts to prevent their meet- 



The author's early reflections on Slavery — Aunt Jennie and Uncle 
Noah — Presentment of one day becoming a freeman — Conflict be- 
tween an overseer and a slave woman — Advantage of resistance — 
Death of an overseer — Col. Lloyd's plantation home — Monthly dis- 
tribution of food — Singing of Slaves — An explanation — The slaves' 
food and clothing — Naked children — Life in the quarter — Sleeping 
places — not beds — Deprivation of sleep — Care of nursing babies — 
Ash cake — Contrast. 

THE incidents related in the foregoing chapter led me 
thus early to inquire into the origin and nature of 
slavery. Why am I a slave ? Why are some people slaves 
and others masters ? These were perplexing questions 
and very troublesome to my childhood. I was told by 
some one very early that " G-od up in the sky " had made 
all things, and had made black people to be slaves and 
white people to be masters. I was told too that God was 
■-^good, and that He knew what was best for everybody. 
This was, however, less satisfactory than the first state- 
ment. It came point blank against all my notions of 
goodness. The case of Aunt Esther was in my mind. 
Besides, I could not tell how anybody could know that 
God made black people to be slaves. Then I found, too, 
that there were puzzling exceptions to this theory of sla- 
very, in the fact that all black people were not slaves, and 
all wliite people were not masters. 

An incident occurred about this time that made a deep 
impression on my. mind. One of the men slaves of Cap- 
tain Anthony and my Aunt Jennie ran away. A great 
noise was made about it. Old master was furious. He 



said he would follow them and catch them and bring them 
back, but he never did, and somebody told me that Uncle 
Noah and Aunt Jennie had gone to the free states and 
were free. Besides this occurrence, which brought much 
light to my mind on the subject, there were several slaves 
on Mr. Lloyd's place who remembered being brought from 
Africa., There were others that told me that their fathers 
and mothers were stolen from Africa. 

This to me was important knowledge, but not such as 
to make me feel very easy in my slave condition. The 
success of Aunt Jennie and Uncle Noah in getting away 
from slavery was, I think, the first fact that made me 
seriously think of escape for myself. I could not have 
been more than seven or eight years old at the time of 
this occurrence, but young as I was I was already a fugi- 
-'tive from slavery in spirit and purpose. 

Up to the time of the brutal treatment of my Aunt 
Esther, already narrated, and the shocking plight in which 
I had seen my cousin from Tuckahoe, my attention had 
not been especially directed to the grosser and more re- 
volting features of slavery. I had, of course, heard of 
whippings and savage mutilations of slaves by brutal over- 
seers, but happily for me I had always been out of the way 
of such occurrences. My play time was spent outside of 
the corn and tobacco fields, where the overseers and slaves 
were brought together and in conflict. But after the case 
of my Aunt Esther I saw others of the same disgusting 
and shocking nature. The one of these which agitated 
and distressed me most was the whipping of a woman, 
not belonging to my old master, but to Col. Lloyd. The 
charge against her was very common and very indefinite, 
namely, " impudence.^'' This crime could be committed 
by a slave in a hundred different ways, and depended 
much upon the temper and caprice of the overseer as to 
whether it was committed at all. He could create the 


offense whenever it pleased liini. A look, a word, a ges- 
ture, accidental or intentional, never failed to be taken as 
impudence when he was in the riglit mood for such an 
offense. In this case there were all the necessary condi- 
tions for the commission of the crime charged. The 
offender was nearly white, to begin with ; she was the 
wife of a favorite hand on board of Mr. Lloyd's sloop, and 
was besides the mother of five sprightly cliildren. Vig- 
orous and spirited woman that she was, a wife and a 
mother, with a predominating share of the blood of the 
master running in her veins, Nellie (for that was her 
name) had all the qualities essential to impudence to a 
slave overseer. My attention was called to the scene of 
the castigation by the loud screams and curses that pro- 
ceeded from the direction of it. When I came near the 
parties engaged in the struggle the overseer had hold of 
Nellie, endeavoring with his whole strength to drag her 
to a tree against her resistance. Both his and her faces 
were bleeding, for the woman was doing her best. Three 
of her children were present, and though quite small, 
(from seven to ten years old, I should think), they gal- 
lantly took the side of their mother against the overseer, 
and pelted him well with stones and epithets. Amid the 
screams of the children, " Let my mammy go ! Let my 
mammy go! ^^ the hoarse voice of the maddened overseer 
was heard in terrible oaths that he would teach her how 
to give a white man " impudence.^^ The blood on his face 
and on hers attested her skill in the use of her nails, and 
his dogged determination to conquer. His purpose was 
to tie her up to a tree and give her, in slave-holding par- 
lance, a " genteel flogging," and he evidently had not ex- 
pected the stern and protracted resistance he was meet- 
ing, or the strength and skill needed to its execution. 
There were times when she seemed likely to get the bet- 
ter of the brute, but he finally overpowered her and sue- 


cceded in getting her arms firmly tied to the tree towards 
which he had been dragging her. The victim was now at 
the mercy of his merciless lash. What followed I need 
not here describe. The cries of the now helpless woman, 
while undergoing the terrible infliction, were mingled 
with the hoarse curses of the overseer and the wild cries 
of her distracted children. When the poor woman was 
untied her back was covered with blood. She was whip- 
ped, terribly whipped, but she was not subdued, and con- 
tinued to denounce the overseer, and pour upon him 
every vile epithet she could think of. Such floggings are 
seldom repeated by overseers on the same persons. They 
prefer to whip those who were the most easily whipped. 
The doctrine that submission to violence is the best cure 
for violence did not hold good as between slaves and over- 
seers. He was whipped oftener who was whipped easiest. 
That slave who had the courage to stand up for himself 
against the overseer, although he might have many hard 
stripes at first, became while legally a slave virtually a 
freeman. " You can shoot me," said a slave to Rigby 
Hopkins, " but you can't whip me," and the result was he 
was neither whipped nor shot. I do not know that Mr. 
Sevier ever attempted to whip Nellie again. He probably 
never did, for not long after he was taken sick and died. 
It was commonly said that his death-bed was a wretched 
one, and that, the ruling passion being strong in death, 
he died flourishing the slave whip and with horrid oaths 
upon his lips. This death-bed scene may only be the im- 
agining of the slaves. One thing is certain, that when he 
was in health his profanity was enough to chill the blood 
of an ordinary man. Nature, or habit, had given to his 
face an expression of uncommon savageness. Tobacco 
and rage had ground his teeth short, and nearly every 
sentence that he uttered was commenced or completed 
with an oath. Hated for his cruelty, despised for his 


cowardice, he went to his grave lamented by nobody on 
the place outside of his own house, if, indeed, he was even 
lamented there. 

In Mr. James Hopkins, the succeeding overseer, we had 
a different and a better man, as good perhaps as any man 
could be in the position of a slave overseer. Though he 
sometimes wielded the lash, it was evident that he took 
no pleasure in it and did it with much reluctance. He 
stayed but a short time here, and his removal from the 
position was much regretted by the slaves generally. Of 
the successor of Mr. Hopkins I shall have something to 
say at another time and in another place. 

For the present we will attend to a further description 
of the business-like aspect of Col. Lloyd's " Great House^^ 
farm. There was always much bustle and noise here on 
the two days at the end of each month, for then the slaves 
belonging to the different branches of this great estate 
assembled here by their representatives to obtain their 
monthly allowances of corn-meal and pork. These were 
gala days for the slaves of the outlying farms, and there 
was much rivalry among them as to who should be elected 
to go up to the Great House farm for the " Allowayices^^ 
and indeed to attend to any other business at this great 
place, to them the capitol of a little nation. Its beauty 
and grandeur, its immense wealth, its numerous popu- 
lation, and the fact that uncles Harry, Peter, and Jake, 
the sailors on board the sloop, usually kept on sale trink- 
ets which they bought in Baltimore to sell to their less 
fortunate fellow-servants, made a visit to the Great House 
farm a high privilege, and eagerly sought. It was valued, 
too, as a mark of distinction and confidence; but proba- 
bly the chief motive among the competitors for the office 
was the opportunity it afforded to shake off the monotony 
of the field and to get beyond the overseer's eye and lash. 
Once on the road with an ox-team, and seated on the 


tongue of the cart, with no overseer to look after him, he 
felt comparatively free. 

Slaves were expected to sing as well as to work. A 
silent slave was not liked, either by masters or overseers. 
''Make a noise there ! Make a noise there 1 " and " bear a 
hand," were words usually addressed to slaves when they 
were silent. This, and the natural disposition of the ne- 
gro to make a noise in the world, may account for the 
almost constant singing among them when at their work. 
There was generally more or less singing among the 
teamsters at all times. It was a means of telling the 
overseer, in the distance, where they were and what they 
were about. But on the allowance days those commis- 
sioned to the Great House farm were peculiarly vocal. 
While on the way they would make the grand old woods 
for miles around reverberate with their wild and plain- 
tive notes. They were indeed both merry and sad. 
Child as I was, these wild songs greatly depressed my 
spirits. Nowhere outside of dear old Ireland, in the 
days of want and famine, have I heard sounds so mourn- 

In all these slave songs there was ever some expression 
of praise of the Great House farm — something that would 
please the pride of the Lloyds. 

I am going away to the Great House farm, 

O, yea! O, yea! O, yea! 
My old master is a good old master, 

O, yea! O, yea! O, yea! 

These words would be sung over and over again, with 
others, improvised as they went along — ^jargon, perhaps, 
to the reader, but full of meaning to the singers. I have 
sometimes thought that the mere hearing of these songs 
would have done more to impress the good people of the 
north with the soul-crushing character of slavery than 
whole volumes exposing the physical cruelties of the 


slave system ; for the heart lias no language like song. 
Many years ago, when recollecting my experience in this 
respect, I wrote of these slave songs in the following- 
strain : 

" I did not, when a slave, fully understand the deep 
meaning of those rude and apparently incoherent songs. 
I was, myself, within the circle, so that I could then nei- 
ther hear nor see as those without might see and hear. 
They breathed the prayer aud complaint of souls over- 
flowing with the bitterest anguish. They depressed my 
spirits and filled my heart with ineffable sadness." 

The remark in the olden time was not unfrequently 
made, that slaves were the most contented and happy 
laborers in the world, and their dancing and singing were 
referred to in proof of this alleged fact ; but it was a 
great mistake to suppose them happy because they some- 
times made those joyful noises. The songs of the slaves 
represented their sorrows, rather than their joys. Like 
tears, they were a relief to aching hearts. It is not in- 
consistent with the constitution of the human mind that 
avails itself of one and the same method for expressing 
opposite emotions. Sorrow and desolation have their 
songs, as well as joy and peace. 

It was the boast of slaveholders that their slaves 
enjoyed more of the physical comforts of life than the 
peasantry of any country in the world. My experience 
contradicts this. The men and the women slaves on Col. 
Lloyd's farm received as their monthly allowance of food, 
eight pounds of pickled pork, or its equivalent in fish. 
The pork was often tainted, and the fish were of the poor- 
est quality. With their pork or fish, they had given them 
one bushel of Indian meal, unbolted, of which quite fifteen 
per cent, was more fit for pigs than for men. With this 
one pint of salt was given, and this was the entire 
monthly allowance of a full-grown slave, working con- 


stantly in the open field from morning till night every day 
in the month except Sunday. There is no kind of work 
which really requires a better supply of food to prevent 
physical exhaustion than the field work of a slave. The 
yearly allowance of clothing was not more ample than the 
supply of food. It consisted of two tow-linen shirts, one 
pair of trowsers of the same coarse material, for summer, 
and a woolen pair of trowsers and a woolen jacket for win- 
ter, with one pair of yarn stockings and a pair of shoes of 
the coarsest description. Children under ten years old 
had neither shoes, stockings, jackets, nor trowsers. They 
had two coarse tow-linen shirts per year, and when these 
were worn out they went naked till the next allowance 
day — and this was the condition of the little girls as well 
as the boys. As to beds, they had none. One coarse 
blanket was given them, and this only to the men and 
women. The children stuck themselves in holes and cor- 
ners about the quarters, often in the corners of huge chim- 
neys, with their feet in the ashes to keep them warm. 
The want of beds, however, was not considered a great 
privation by the field hands. Time to sleep was of far 
greater importance. For when the day's work was done 
most of these had their washing, mending, and cooking to 
do, and having few or no facilities for doing such things, 
very many of their needed sleeping hours were consumed 
in necessary preparations for the labors of the coming 
day. The sleeping apartments, if they could have been 
properly called such, had little regard to comfort or de- 
cency. Old and young, male and female, married and 
single, dropped down upon the common clay floor, each 
covering up with his or her blanket, their only protection 
from cold or exposure. The night, however, was short- 
ened at both ends. The slaves worked often as long as 
they could see, and were late in cooking and mending for 
the coming day, and at the first gray streak of the morn- 


ing tlicy were summoned to the field by the overseer's 
horn. They were whipped for over-sleeping more than 
for any other fault. Neither age nor sex found any favor. 
The overseer stood at the quarter door, armed with stick 
and whip, ready to deal heavy blows upon any who might 
be a little behind time. When the horn was blown there 
was a rush for the door, for the hindermost one was sure 
to get a blow from the overseer. Young mothers who 
worked in the field were allowed an hour about ten o'clock 
in the morning to go home to nurse their children. This 
was when they were not required to take them to the field 
with them, and leave them upon " turning row," or in the 
corner of the fences. 

As a general rule the slaves did not come to their quar- 
ters to take their meals, but took their ash-cake (called 
thus because baked in the ashes) and piece of pork, or 
their salt herrings, where they were at work. 

But let us now leave the rough usage of the field, where 
vulgar coarseness and brutal cruelty flourished as rank as 
weeds in the tropics, where a vile wretch, in the shape of 
a man, rides, walks, and struts about, with whip in hand, 
dealing heavy blows and leaving deep gashes on the flesh 
of men and women, and turn our attention to the less 
repulsive slave life as it existed in the home of my child- 
hood. Some idea of the splendor of that place sixty years 
ago has already been given. The contrast between the 
condition of the slaves and that of their masters was mar- 
velously sharp and striking. There were pride, pomp, 
and luxury on the one hand, servility, dejection, and 
misery on the other. 



Contrasts— Great House luxuries— Its hospitality — Entertainments — 
Fault-finding — Shameful humiliation of an old and faithful coach- 
man — William Wilks — Curious incident — Expressed satisfaction 
not always genuine — Reasons for suppressing the truth. 

THE close-fisted stinginess that fed the poor slave on 
coarse corn-meal and tainted meat, that clothed him 
in crashy tow-linen and hurried him on to toil through the 
field in all weathers, with wind and rain beating through 
his tattered garments, that scarcely gave even the young 
slave-mother time to nurse her infant in the fence-corner, 
wholly vanish_^ed on approaching the sacred precincts of 
the " Great House " itself. There the scriptural phrase 
descriptive of the wealthy found exact illustration. The 
highly-favored inmates of this mansion were literally 
arrayed in "purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously 
every day." The table of this house groaned under the 
blood-bought luxuries gathered with pains-taking care at 
home and abroad. Fields, forests, rivers, and seas were 
made tributary. Immense wealth and its lavish expen- 
ditures filled the Great House with all that could please 
the eye or tempt the taste. Fish, flesh, and fowl were 
here in profusion. Chickens of all breeds ; ducks of all 
kinds, wild and tame, the common and the huge Musco- 
vite ; Guinea fowls, turkeys, geese, and pea-fowls were 
fat, and fattening for the destined vortex. Here the 
graceful swan, the mongrel, the black-necked wild goose, 
partridges, quails, pheasants, and pigeons, choice water- 
fowl, with all their strange varieties, were caught in this 



huge net. Beef, veal, mutton, and venison, of the most 
select kinds and quality, rolled in bounteous profusion to 
this grand consumer. The teeming riches of the Chesa- 
peake Bay, its rock perch, drums, crocus, trout, oysters, 
crabs, and terrapin were drawn hither to adorn the glitter- 
ing table. The dairy, too, the finest then on the eastern 
shore of Maryland, supplied by cattle of the best English 
stock, imported for the express purpose, poured its rich 
donations of fragrant cheese, golden butter, and delicious 
cream to heighten the attractions of the gorgeous, unend- 
ing round of feasting. Nor were the fruits of the earth 
overlooked. The fertile garden, many acres in size, con- 
stituting a separate establishment distinct from the com- 
mon farm, with its scientific gardener direct from Scot- 
land, a Mr. McDermott, and four men under his direction, 
was not behind, either in the abundance or in the delicacy 
of its contributions. The tender asparagus, the crispy 
celery, and the delicate cauliflower, egg plants, beets, 
lettuce, parsnips, peas, and French beans, early and late, 
radishes, cantelopes, melons of all kinds ; and the fruits 
of all climes and of every description, from the hardy 
apples of the north to the lemon and orange of the south, 
culminated at this point. Here were gathered figs, 
raisins, almonds, and grapes from Spain, wines and bran- 
dies from France, teas of various flavor from China, and 
rich, aromatic coffee from Java, all conspiring to swell 
the tide of high life, where pride and indolence lounged 
in magnificence and satiety. 

Behind the tall-backed and elaborately wrought chairs 
stood the servants, fifteen in number, carefully selected, 
not only with a view to their capacity and adeptness, but 
with especial regard to their personal appearance, their 
graceful agility, and pleasing address. Some of these 
servants, armed with fans, wafted reviving breezes to the 
over-heated brows of the alabaster ladies, whilst others 


watched with eager eye and fawn-like step, anticipating 
and supplying wants before they were sufficiently formed to 
be announced by word or sign. 

These servants constituted a sort of black aristocracy. 
They resembled the field hands in nothing except their 
color, and in this tliey held the advantage of a velvet-like 
glossiness, rich and beautiful. The hair, too, showed the 
same advantage. The delicately-formed colored maid 
rustled in the scarcely-worn silk of her young mistress, 
while the servant men were equally well attired from the 
overflowing wardrobe of their young masters, so that in 
dress, as well as in form and feature, in manner and 
speech, in tastes and habits, the distance between these 
favored few and the sorrow and hunger-smitten multi- 
tudes of the quarter and the field was immense. 

In the stables and carriage-houses were to be found the 
same evidences of pride and luxurious extravagance. 
Here were three splendid coaches, soft within and lus- 
trous without. Here, too, were gigs, phaetons, barouches, 
sulkeys, and sleighs. Here were saddles and harnesses, 
beautifully wrought and richly mounted. Not less than 
thirty-five horses of the best approved blood, both for 
speed and beauty, were kept only for pleasure. The care 
of these horses constituted the entire occupation of two 
men, one or the other of them being always in the stable 
to answer any call which might be made from the Great 
House. Over the way from the stable was a house built 
expressly for the hounds, a pack of twenty-five or thirty, 
the fare for which would have made glad the hearts of a 
dozen slaves. Horses and hounds, however, were not the 
only consumers of the slave's toil. The hospitality prac- 
ticed at the Lloyd's would have astonished and charmed 
many a health-seeking divine or merchant from the north. 
Viewed from his table, and not from the field, Colonel 
Lloyd was, indeed, a model of generous hospitality. His 


house was literally a hotel for weeks, during the summer 
months. At these times, especially, the air was freighted 
with the rich fumes of baking, boiling, roasting, and broil- 
ing. It was something to me that I could share these 
odors with the winds, even if the meats themselves were 
under a more stringent monopoly. In master Daniel I had 
a friend at court, who would sometimes give me a cake, 
and who kept me well informed as to their guests and 
their entertainments. Viewed from Col. Lloyd's table, 
who could have said that his slaves were not well clad and 
well cared for ? Who would have said they did not glory 
in being the slaves of such a master ? Who but a fanatic 
could have seen any cause for sympathy for either master 
or slave ? Alas, this immense wealth, this gilded splen- 
dor, this profusion of luxury, this exemption from toil, 
this life of ease, this sea of plenty were not the pearly 
gates they seemed to a world of happiness and sweet con- 
tent. The poor slave, on his hard pine plank, scantily 
covered with his thin blanket, slept more soundly than the 
feverish voluptuary who reclined upon his downy pillow. 
Food to the indolent is poison, not sustenance. Lurking 
beneath the rich and tempting viands were invisible spirits 
of evil, which filled the self -deluded gormandizer with 
aches and pains, passions uncontrollable, fierce tempers, 
dyspepsia, rheumatism, lumbago, and gout, and of these 
the Lloyds had a full share. 

I had many opportunities of witnessing the restless dis- 
content and capricious irritation of the Lloyds. My fond- 
ness for horses attracted me to the stables much of the 
time. The two men in charge of this establishment were 
old and young Barney — ^father and son. Old Barney was 
a fine-looking, portly old man of a brownish complexion, 
and a respectful and dignified bearing. He was much 
devoted to his profession, and held his office as an honor- 
able one. He was a farrier as well as an ostler, and 


could bleed, remove lampers from their mouths, and ad- 
minister medicine to horses. No one on the farm knew 
so well as old Barney what to do with a sick horse ; but 
his office was not an enviable one, and his gifts and 
acquirements were of little advantage to him. In nothing 
was Col. Lloyd more unreasonable and exacting than in 
respect to the management of his horses. Any supposed 
inattention to these animals was sure to be visited with 
degrading punishment. His horses and dogs fared better 
than his men. Their beds were far softer and cleaner 
i;han those of his human cattle. No excuse could shield 
old Barney if the Colonel only suspected something wrong 
about his horses, and consequently he was often punished 
when faultless. It was painful to hear the unreasonable 
and fretful scoldings administered by Col. Lloyd, his son 
Murray, and his sons-in-law, to this poor man. Three of 
the daughters of Col. Lloyd were married, and they with 
their husbands remained at the great house a portion of 
the year, and enjoyed the luxury of whipping the servants 
when they pleased. A horse was seldom brought out of 
the stable to which no objection could be raised. "There 
was dust in his hair ;" "there was a twist in his reins ;" 
" his foretop was not combed ;" " his mane did not lie 
straight ;" " his head did not look well ;" " his fetlocks 
had not been properly trimmed." Something was always 
wrong. However groundless the complaint, Barney must 
stand, hat in hand, lips sealed, never answering a word in 
explanation or excuse. In a free State, a master thus 
complaining without cause, might be told by his ostler : 
" Sir, I am sorry I cannot please you, but since I have 
done the best I can and fail to do so, your remedy is to 
dismiss me." But here the ostler must listen and trem- 
blingly abide his master's behest. One of the most heart- 
saddening and humiliating scenes I ever witnessed was 
the whipping of old Barney by Col. Lloyd. These two 
men were both advanced in years ; there were the silver 


locks of the master, and the bald and toil-worn brow of 
the slave — superior and inferior here, powerful and weak 
here, but equals before God. " Uncover your head,'' said 
the imperious master ; he was obeyed. " Take off your 
jacket, you old rascal !" and off came Barney's jacket. 
" Down on your knees !" Down knelt the old man, his 
shoulders bare, his bald head glistening in the sunshine, 
and his aged knees on the cold, damp ground. In this 
humble and debasing attitude, that master, to whom he 
had devoted the best years and tlie best strength of his 
life, came forward and laid on thirty lashes with his horse- 
whip. The old man made no resistance, but bore it 
patiently, answering each blow with only a shrug of the 
shoulders and a groan. I do not think that the physical 
suffering from this infliction was severe, for the whip was 
a light riding-whip ; but the spectacle of an aged man — a 
husband and a father — humbly kneeling before his fellow- 
man, shocked me at the time ; and since I have grown 
older, few of the features of slavery have impressed me 
with a deeper sense of its injustice and barbarity than this 
exciting scene. I owe it to the truth, however, to say that 
this was tlie first and last time I ever saw a slave com- 
pelled to kneel to receive a whipping. 

Another incident, illustrating a phase of slavery to 
which I have referred in another connection, I may here 
mention. Besides two other coachmen. Col. Lloyd owned 
one named William Wilks, and his was one of the excep- 
tionable cases where a slave possessed a surname, and 
was recognized by it, by both colored and white people. 
Wilks was a very fine-looking man. He was about as 
white as any one on the plantation, and in form and fea- 
ture bore a very striking resemblance to Murray Lloyd. 
It was whispered and generally believed that William 
Wilks was a son of Col. Lloyd, by a highly favored slave- 
woman, who was still on the plantation. There were 
many reasons for believing this whisper, not only from his 

Col. Lloyd Whipping Baknet. 


personal appearance, but from the undeniable freedom 
which he enjoyed over all others, and his apparent con- 
sciousness of being something more than a slave to his 
master. It was notorious too that William had a deadly 
enemy in Murray Lloyd, whom he so much resembled, 
and that the latter greatly worried his father with impor- 
tunities to sell William. Indeed, he gave his father no 
rest, until he did sell him to Austin Woldfolk, the great 
slave-trader at that time. Before selling him, however, 
he tried to make things smooth by giving William a whip- 
ping, but it proved a failure. It was a compromise, and 
like most such, defeated itself, — for soon after Col. Lloyd 
atoned to William for the abuse by giving him a gold 
watch and chain. Another fact somewhat curious was, 
that though sold to the remorseless Woldfolk, taken in 
irons to Baltimore, and cast into prison, with a view to 
being sent to the South, William outbid all his purchasers, 
paid for himself, and afterwards resided in Baltimore. 
How this was accomplished was a great mystery at the 
time, explained only on the supposition that the hand 
which had bestowed the gold watch and chain had also 
supplied the purchase-money, but I have since learned 
that this was not the true explanation. Wilks had many 
friends in Baltimore and Annapolis, and they united to 
save him from a fate which was one of all others most 
dreaded by the slaves. Practical amalgamation was how- 
ever so common at the South, and so many circumstances 
pointed in that direction, that there was little reason to 
doubt that William Wilks was the son of Edward Lloyd. 
The real feelings and opinions of the slaves were not 
much known or respected by their masters. The distance 
between the two was too great to admit of such knowl- 
edge ; and in this respect Col. Lloyd was no exception 
to the rule. His slaves were so numerous he did not 
know them when he saw them. Nor, indeed, did all liis 
slaves know him. It is reported of him, that riding 


along tlie road one day, he met a colored man, and 
addressed him in what was the usual way of speaking to 
colored people on the public highways of the South : 
"Well, boy, who do you belong to?" "To Col. Lloyd," 
replied the slave. " Well, does the Colonel treat you 
well?" "No, sir," was the ready reply. " What, does 
he work you hard ?" " Yes, sir." " Well, don't he give 
you enough to eat ? '' " Yes, sir, he gives me enough to 
eat, such as it is." The Colonel rode on ; the slave also 
went on about his business, not dreaming that he had 
been conversing with his master. He thought and said 
nothing of the matter, until two or three weeks after- 
wards, he was informed by his overseer that, for having 
found fault with his master, he was now to be sold to a 
Georgia trader. He was immediately chained and hand- 
cuffed ; and thus, without a moment's warning, he was 
snatched away, and forever sundered from his family and 
friends by a hand as unrelenting as that of death. This 
was the penalty of telling the simple truth, in answer to 
a series of plain questions. It was partly in consequence 
of such facts, that slaves, when inquired of as to their 
condition and the character of their masters, would 
almost invariably say that they were contented and their 
masters kind. Slaveholders are known to have sent spies 
among their slaves to ascertain, if possible, their views 
and feelings in regard to their condition ; hence the 
maxim established among them, that "a still tongue 
makes a wise head." They would suppress the truth 
rather than take the consequences of telling it, and in so 
doing they prove themselves a part of the human family. 
I was frequently asked if I had a kind master, and 1 do 
not remember ever to have given a negative reply. I did 
not consider myself as uttering that which was strictly 
untrue, for I always measured the kindness of my master 
by the standard of kindness set up by the slaveholders 
around us. 



Austin Gore — Sketch of his character — Overseers as a class — Their 
peculiar characteristics — The marked individuality of Austin Gore 
— His sense of duty — Murder of poor Denby — Sensation — How 
Gore made his peace with Col. Lloyd — Other horrible murders — No 
laws for the protection of slaves possible of being enforced. 

THE comparatively moderate rule of Mr. Hopkins as 
overseer on Col. Lloyd's plantation was succeeded 
by that of another, whose name was Austin Gore. I 
hardly know how to bring this fitly before the 
reader ; for under him there was more suffering from vio- 
lence and bloodshed than had, according to the older 
slaves, ever been experienced before at this place. He 
was an overseer, and possessed the peculiar characteris- 
tics of his class; yet to call him merely an overseer 
would not give one a fair conception of the man. I 
speak of overseers as a class, for they were such. They 
were as distinct from the slaveholding gentry of the 
South as are the fish-women of Paris and the coal-heavers 
of London distinct from other grades of society. They 
constituted a separate fraternity at the South. They 
were arranged and classified by that great law of attrac- 
tion which determines the sphere and affinities of men; 
which ordains that men whose malign and brutal propen- 
sities preponderate over their moral and intellectual 
endowments shall naturally fall into those employments 
which promise the largest gratification to those predom- 
inating instincts or propensities. The office of overseer 
took this raw material of vulgarity and brutality, and 



stamped it as a distinct class in southern life. But in 
tills class, as in all other classes, there were sometimes 
persons of marked individuality, yet with a general 
resemblance to the mass. Mr. Gore was one of those to 
whom a general characterization would do no manner of 
justice. He was an overseer, but he was something 
more. With the malign and tyrannical qualities of an 
overseer he combined something of the lawful master. 
He had the artfulness and mean ambition of his class, 
without its disgusting swagger and noisy bravado. There 
was an easy air of independence about him, a calm self- 
possession, at the same time a sternness of glance which 
well might daunt less timid hearts than those of poor 
slaves, accustomed from childhood to cower before a 
driver's lash. He was one of those overseers who could 
torture the slightest word or look into impudence, and he 
had the nerve not only to resent, but to punish promptly 
and severely. There could be no answering back. Guilty 
or not guilty, to be accused was to be sure of a flogging. 
His very presence was fearful, and I sliunned him as I 
would have shunned a rattlesnake. His piercing black 
eyes and sharp, shrill voice ever awakened sensations of 
dread. Other overseers, how brutal soever they might 
be, would sometimes seek to gain favor with the slaves 
by indulging in a little pleasantry ; but Gore never said a 
funny thing or perpetrated a joke. He was always cold, 
distant, and unapproachable — the overseer on Col. Edward 
Lloyd's plantation — and needed no higher pleasure than 
the performance of the duties of his office. When he 
used the lash, it was from a sense of duty, without fear 
of consequences. There was a stern will, an iron-like 
reality about him, which would easily have made him 
chief of a band of pirates, had his environments been 
favorable to such a sphere. Among many other deeds of 
shocking oi'uelty committed by him was the murder of a 

BILL denby's murder. 77 

young colored man named Bill Denby. He was a power- 
ful fellow, full of animal spirits, and one of the most val- 
uable of Col. Lloyd's slaves. In some way, I know not 
what, he offended this Mr. Austin Gore, and, in accord- 
ance with the usual custom, the latter undertook to flog 
him. He had given him but a few stripes when Denby 
broke away from him, plunged into the creek, and, stand- 
ing there with the water up to his neck, refused to come 
out; whereupon, for this refusal. Gore shot Mm dead! 
It was said that Gore gave Denby three calls to come 
out, telling him if he did not obey the last call he should 
shoot him. When the last call was given Denby still 
stood his ground, and Gore, without further parley, or 
without making any further effort to induce obedience, 
raised his gun deliberately to his face, took deadly aim at 
his standing victim, and with one click of the gun the 
mangled body sank out of sight, and only his warm red 
blood marked the place where he had stood. 

This fiendish murder produced, as it could not help 
doing, a tremendous sensation. The slaves were panic- 
stricken, and howled with alarm. The atrocity roused 
my old master, and he spoke out in reprobation of it. 
Both he and Col. Lloyd arraigned Gore for his cruelty ; 
but he, calm and collected, as though nothing unusual 
had happened, declared that Denby had become unman- 
ageable ; that he set a dangerous example to the other 
slaves, and that unless some such prompt measure was 
resorted to there would be an end of all rule and order on 
the plantation. That convenient covert for all manner of 
villainy and outrage, that cowardly alarm-cry, that the 
slaves would " take the place," was pleaded, just as it had 
been in thousands of similar cases. Gore's defense was 
evidently considered satisfactory, for he was continued in 
his office, without being subjected to a judicial investiga- 
tion. The murder was committed in the presence of 


slaves only, and tliey, being slaves, could neither institute 
a suit nor testify against the murderer. Mr. Gore lived 
in St. Michaels, Talbot Co., Maryland, and I have no rea- 
son to doubt, from what I know to have been the moral 
sentiment of the place, that he was as highly esteemed 
and as much respected as though his guilty soul had not 
been stained with innocent blood. 

I speak advisedly when I say that killing a slave, or 
any colored person, in Talbot Co., Maryland, was not 
treated as a crime, either by the courts or the community. 
Mr. Thomas Lanman, ship carpenter of St. Michaels, killed 
two slaves, one of whom he butchered with a hatchet, by 
knocking his brains out. He used to boast of having 
committed the awful and bloody deed. 1 have heard him 
do so laughingly, declaring himself a benefactor of his 
country, and that " when others would do as much as he 
had done, they would be rid of the d d niggers." 

Another notorious fact which I may state was the mur- 
der of a young girl between fifteen and sixteen years of 
age, by her mistress, Mrs. Giles Hicks, who lived but a 
short distance from Col. Lloyd's. This wicked woman, 
in the paroxysm of her wrath, not content at killing her 
victim, literally mangled her face and broke her breast- 
bone. Wild and infuriated as she was, she took the pre- 
caution to cause the burial of the girl ; but, the facts of 
the case getting abroad, the remains were disinterred and 
a coroner's jury assembled, who, after due deliberation, 
decided that " the girl had come to her death from severe 
beating." The offense for which this girl was thus hur- 
ried out of the world was this : she had been set that 
night, and several preceding nights, to mind Mrs. Hicks' 
baby, and having fallen into a sound sleep the crying of 
the baby did not wake her, as it did its mother. The tar- 
diness of the girl excited Mrs. Hicks, who, after calling 
her several times, seized a piece of fire-wood from the fire- 

Gore Shooting Denby 


place and pounded in her skull and breast-bone till death 
ensued. I will not say that this murder most foul pro- 
duced no sensation. It did produce a sensation. A war- 
rant was issued for the arrest of Mrs. Hicks, but incredi- 
ble to tell, for some reason or other, that warrant was 
never served, and she not only escaped condign punish- 
ment, but the pain and mortification as well of being 
arraigned before a court of justice. 

While I am detailing the bloody deeds that took place 
during my stay on Col. Lloyd's plantation, I will briefly 
narrate another dark transaction, which occurred about 
the time of the murder of Denby. 

On the side of the river Wye opposite from Col. Lloyd's, 
there lived a Mr. Beal Bondley, a wealthy slaveholder. 
In the direction of his land, and near the shore, there was 
an excellent oyster fishing-ground, and to this some of 
Lloyd's slaves occasionally resorted in their little canoes 
at night, with a view to make up the deficiency of their 
scanty allowance of food by the oysters that they could 
easily get there. Mr. Bondley took it into his head to re- 
gard this as a trespass, and while an old man slave was 
engaged in catching a few of the many millions of oys- 
ters that lined the bottom of the creek, to satisfy his hun- 
ger, the rascally Bondley, lying in ambush, without the 
slightest warning, discharged the contents of his musket 
into the back of the poor old man. As good fortune 
would have it, the shot did not prove fatal, and Mr. 
Bondley came over the next day to see Col. Lloyd about 
it. What happened between them I know not, but there 
was little said about it and nothing publicly done. One 
of the commonest sayings to which my ears early became 
accustomed, was that it was '' worth but a half a cent to 
kill a nigger, and half a cent to bury one." While I 
heard of numerous murders committed by slaveholders on 
the eastern shore of Maryland, I never knew a solitary 


instance where a slaveholder was either hung or imprisoned 
for having murdered a slave. The usual pretext for such 
crimes was that the slave had offered resistance. Should 
a slave, when assaulted, but raise his hand in self-defense, 
the white assaulting party was fully justified by southern 
law and southern public opinion in shooting the slave 
down, and for this there was no redress. 



Miss Lucretia — Her kindness — How it was manifested — "Ike" — A 
battle with him — Miss Lucretia's balsam — Bread — How it was ob- 
tained — Gleams of sunlight amidst the general darkness — Suffering 
from cold— ^How we took our meal mush — Preparations for going 
to Baltimore — Delight at the change — Cousin Tom's opinion of Bal- 
timore — Arrival there — Kind reception — Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Auld 
— Their son Tommy — My relations to them — My duties — A turning 
point in my life. 

I HAVE nothing cruel or shocking to relate of my 
own personal experience while I remained on Col. 
Lloyd's plantation, at the home of my old master. An 
occasional cuff from Aunt Katy, and a regular whipping 
from old master, such as any heedless and mischievous 
boy might get from his father, is all that I have to say of 
this sort. I was not old enough to work in the field, and 
there being little else than field-work to perform, I had 
much leisure. The most I had to do was to drive up the 
cows in the evening, to keep the front yard clean, and to 
perform small errands for my young mistress, Lucretia 
Auld. I had reasons for thinking this lady was very 
kindly disposed towards me, and although I was not often 
the object of her attention, I constantly regarded her as 
my friend, and was always glad when it was my privilege 
to do her a service. In a family where there was so much 
that was harsh and indifferent, the slightest word or look 
of kindness was of great value. Miss Lucretia — as we 
all continued to call her long after her marriage — had be- 
stowed on me such looks and words as taught me that 
she pitied me, if she did not love me. She sometimes 



gave me a piece of bread and butter, an article not set 
down in our bill of fare, but an extra ration aside from 
both Aunt Katy and old master, and given as I believed 
solely out of the tender regard she had for me. Then, 
too, I one day got into the wars with Uncle Abel's son 
'' Ike,'' and had got sadly worsted ; the little rascal struck 
me directly in the forehead with a sharp piece of cinder, 
fused with iron, from the old blacksmith's forge, which 
made a cross in my forehead very plainly to be seen even 
now. The gash bled very freely, and I roared and betook 
myself home. The cold-hearted Aunt Katy paid no at- 
tention either to my wound or my roaring except to tell 
me it " served me right ; I had no business with Ike ; it 
would do me good ; I would now keep away from ' dem 
Lloyd niggers.' " Miss Lucretia in this state of the case 
came forward, and called me into the parlor (an extra 
privilege of itself), and without using toward me any of 
the hard and reproachful epithets of Aunt Katy, quietly 
acted the good Samaritan. With her own soft hand she 
washed the blood from my head and face, brought her 
own bottle of balsam, and with the balsam wetted a nice 
piece of white linen and bound up my head. The balsam 
was not more healing to the wound in my head, than her 
kindness was healing to the wounds in my spirit, induced 
by the unfeeling words of Aunt Katy. 

After this Miss Lucretia was yet more my friend. I 
felt her to be such ; and I have no doubt that the simple 
act of binding up my head did much to awaken in her 
heart an interest in my welfare. It is quite true that this 
interest seldom showed itself in anything more than in 
giving me a piece of bread and butter, but this was a 
great favor on a slave plantation, and I was the only one 
of the children to whom such attention was paid. When 
very severely pinched with hunger, I had the habit of 
singing, which the good lady very soon came to under- 


stand, and when she heard me sinking under her window 
I was very apt to be paid for my music. 

Thus I had two friends, both at important points — 
Mas'r Daniel at the great house, and Miss Lucretia at 
home. From Mas'r Daniel I got protection from the big- 
ger boys, and from Miss Lucretia I got bread by singing 
when I was hungry, and sympathy when I was abused by 
the termagant in the kitchen. For such friendship I was 
deeply grateful, and bitter as are my recollections of 
slavery, it is a true pleasure to recall any instances of 
kindness, any sunbeams of humane treatment, which 
found way to my soul, through the iron grating of my 
house of bondage. Such beams seem all the brighter 
from the general darkness into which they penetrate, and 
the impression they make there is vividly distinct. 

As before intimated, I received no severe treatment 
from the hands of my master, but the insufficiency of 
both food and clothing was a serious trial to me, espec- 
ially from the lack of clothing. In hottest summer and 
coldest winter I was kept almost in a state of nudity. 
My only clothing — a little coarse sack-cloth or tow-linen 
sort of shirt, scarcely reaching to my knees, was worn 
night and day and changed once a week. In the day 
time I could protect myself by keeping on the sunny side 
of the house, or in stormy weather, in the corner of the 
kitchen chimney. But the great difficulty was to keep 
warm during the night. The pigs in the pen had leaves, 
and the horses in the stable had straw, but the children 
had no beds. They lodged anywhere in the ample 
kitchen. I slept generally in a little closet, without even 
a blanket to cover me. In very cold weather I sometimes 
got down the bag in which corn was carried to the mill, 
and crawled into that. Sleeping there with my head in 
and my feet out, I was partly protected, though never com- 
fortable. My feet have been so cracked with the frost 


that the pen with which I am writing might be laid in the 
gashes. Our corn meal mush, which was our only regu- 
lar if not all-sufficing diet, when sufficiently cooled from 
the cooking, was placed in a large tray or trough. This 
was set down either on the floor of the kitchen, or out of 
doors on the ground, and the children were called like so 
many pigs, and like so many pigs would come, some with 
oyster-shells, some with pieces of shingles, but none with 
spoons, and literally devour the mush. He who could eat 
fastest got most, and he that was strongest got the best 
place, but few left the trough really satisfied. I was the 
most unlucky of all, for Aunt Katy had no good feeling 
for me, and if I pushed the children, or if they told her 
anything unfavorable of me, she always believed the worst 
and was sure to whip me. 

As I grew older and more thoughtful, I became more 
and more filled with a sense of my wretchedness. The 
unkindness of Aunt Katy, the hunger and cold I suffered, 
and the terrible reports of wrongs and outrages which 
came to my ear, together with what I almost daily wit- 
nessed, led me to wish I had never been born. I used to 
contrast my condition with that of the black-birds, in 
whose wild and sweet songs I fancied them so happy. 
Their apparent joy only deepened the shades of my sor- 
row. There are thoughtful days in the lives of children — 
at least there were in mine — when they grapple with all 
the great primary subjects of knowledge, and reach in a 
moment conclusions which no subsequent experience can 
shake. I was just as well aware of the unjust, unnatural, 
and murderous character of slavery, when nine years old, 
as I am now. Without any appeals to books, to laws, or 
to authorities of any kind, to regard God as "Our Father," 
condemned slavery as a crime. 

I was in this unhappy state when I received from Miss 
Lucretia the joyful intelligence that my old master had 


determined to let me go to Baltimore to live with Mr. 
Hugh Auld, a brother to Mr. Thomas Auld, Miss Lucre- 
tia's husband. I shall never forget the ecstacy with 
which I received this information, three days before the 
time set for my departure. They were the three happiest 
days I had ever known. I spent the largest part of them 
in the creek, washing off the plantation scurf, and thus 
preparing for my new home. Miss Lucretia took a lively 
interest in getting me ready. She told me I must get all 
the dead skin off my feet and knees, for the people in 
Baltimore were very cleanly, and would laugh at me if I 
looked dirty ; and besides she was intending to give me a 
pair of trowsers, but which I could not put on unless I 
got all the dirt off. This was a warning which I was 
bound to heed, for the thought of owning and wearing a 
pair of trowsers was great indeed. So I went at it in 
good earnest, working for the first time in my life in the 
hope of reward. I was greatly excited, and could hardly 
consent to sleep lest I should be left. 

The ties that ordinarily bind children to their homes had 
no existence in my case, and in thinking of a home else- 
where, I was confident of finding none that I should relish 
less than the one I was leaving. If I should meet with 
hardship, hunger, and nakedness, I had known them all 
before, and I could endure them elsewhere, especially in 
Baltimore, for I had something of the feeling about that 
city that is expressed in the saying that " being hanged in 
England is better than dying a natural death in Ireland." 
I had the strongest desire to see Baltimore. My cousin 
Tom, a boy two or three years older than I, had been 
there, and, though not fluent in speech (he stuttered im- 
moderately), he had inspired me with that desire by his 
eloquent descriptions of the place. Tom was sometimes 
cabin-boy on board the sloop " Sally Lloyd " (which Capt. 
Thomas Auld commanded), and when he came home 


from Baltimore he was always a sort of hero among us, 
at least till his trip to Baltimore was forgotten. I could 
never tell him anything, or point out anything that struck 
me as beautiful or powerful, but that he had seen some- 
thing in Baltimore far surpassing it. Even the " great 
house," with all its pictures within and pillars without, he 
had the hardihood to say, " was nothing to Baltimore." 
He bought a trumpet (worth sixpence) and brought it 
home ; told what he had seen in the windows of the 
stores ; that he had heard shooting-crackers, and seen 
soldiers ; that he had seen a steamboat ; that there were 
ships in Baltimore that could carry four such sloops as 
the " Sally Lloyd." He said a great deal about the Mar- 
ket house ; of the ringing of the bells, and of many other 
things which roused my curiosity very much, and in- 
deed brightened my hopes of happiness in my new 

We sailed out of Miles River for Baltimore early on a 
Saturday morning. I remember only the day of the 
week, for at that time I had no knowledge of the days of 
the month, nor indeed of the months of the year. On 
setting sail I walked aft and gave to Col. Lloyd's planta- 
tion what I hoped would be the last look I should give to 
it, or to any place like it. After taking this last view, I 
quitted the quarter-deck, made my way to the bow of the 
boat, and spent the remainder of the day in looking 
ahead ; interesting myself in what was in the distance, 
rather than in what was near by, or behind. The vessels 
SAveeping along the bay were objects full of interest to 
me. The broad bay opened like a shoreless ocean on my 
boyish vision, filling me with wonder and admiration. 

Late in the afternoon we reached Annapolis, stopping 
there not long enough to admit of going ashore. It was 
the first large town I had ever seen, and though it was 
inferior to many a factory village in New England, my 


feelings on seeing it were excited to a pitch very little 
below that reached by travelers at the first view of Rome. 
The dome of the State house was especially imposing, and 
surpassed in grandeur the appearance of the "great 
house" I had left behind. So the great world was open- 
ing upon me, and I was eagerly acquainting myself with 
its multifarious lessons. 

We arrived in Baltimore on Sunday morning, and 
landed at Smith's wharf, not far from Bowly's wharf. We 
had on board a large flock of sheep for the Baltimore 
market ; and after assisting in driving them to the slaugh- 
ter house of Mr. Curtiss, on Loudon Slater's hill, I was 
conducted by Rich — one of the hands belonging to the 
sloop — to my new home on Alliciana street, near Gardi- 
ner's ship yard, on Fell's point. Mr. and Mrs. Hugh 
Auld, my new master and mistress, were both at home, 
and met me at the door with their rosy-cheeked little 
son Thomas, to take care of whom was to constitute my 
future occupation. In fact it was to " little Tommy," 
rather than to his parents, that old master made a pres- 
ent of me, and, though there was no legal form or ar- 
rangement entered into, I have no doubt that Mr. and 
Mrs. Auld felt that in due time I should be the legal prop- 
erty of their bright-eyed and beloved boy Tommy. I 
was struck with the appearance especially of my new 
mistress. Her face was lighted with the kindliest emo- 
tions ; and the reflex influence of her countenance, as 
well as the tenderness with which she seemed to regard 
me, while asking me sundry little questions, greatly de- 
lighted me, and lit up, to my fancy, the pathway of my 
future. Little Thomas was affectionately told by his 
mother, that " there was his Freddy," and that " Freddy 
would take care of him ;" and I was told to " be kind to 
little Tommy," an injunction I scarcely needed, for I had 
already fallen in love with the dear boy. With these little 


ceremonies I was initiated into my new home, and entered 
upon my peculiar duties, then unconscious of a cloud to 
dim its broad horizon. 

I may say here that I regard my removal from Col. 
Lloyd's plantation as one of the most interesting and for- 
tunate events of my life. Viewing it in the light of hu- 
man likelihoods, it is quite probable that but for the mere 
circumstance of being thus removed, before the rigors of 
slavery had fully fastened upon me ; before my young 
spirit had been crushed under the iron control of the 
slave-driver, I might have continued in slavery until 
emancipated by the war. 




City annoyances — Plantation regrets — My mistress — Her history — 
Her kindness — My master — His sourness — My comforts — Increased 
sensitiveness — My occupation — Learning to read — Baneful effects 
of slaveholding on my dear, good mistress — Mr. Hugh forbids Mrs. 
Sophia to teach me further — Clouds gather on my bright prospects 
•^Master Auld's exposition of the Philosophy of Slavery — City 
slaves — Country slaves — Contrasts — Exceptions — Mr. Hamilton's 
two slaves — Mrs. Hamilton's cruel treatment of them — Piteous as- 
pect presented by them — No power to come between the slave and 

ESTABLISHED in my new home in Baltimore, I was 
not very long in perceiving that in picturing to my- 
Belf what was to be my life there, my imagination had 
painted only the bright side ; and that the reality had its 
dark shades as well as its light ones. The open coun- 
try which had been so much to me was all shut out. 
Walled in on every side by towering brick buildings, the 
heat of the summer was intolerable to me, and the hard 
brick pavements almost blistered my feet. If I ventured 
out on to the streets, new and strange objects glared upon 
me at every step, and startling sounds greeted my ears 
from all directions. My country eyes and ears were con- 
fused and bewildered. Troops of hostile boys pounced 
upon me at every corner. They chased me, and called 
me " Eastern-Shore man," till really I almost wished my- 
self back on the Eastern Shore. My new mistress happily 
proved to be all she had seemed, and in her presence I 
easily forgot all outside annoyances. Mrs. Sophia was 
naturally of an excellent disposition — kind, gentle, and 



cheerful. The supercilious contempt for the rights and 
feelings of others, and the petulance and bad humor 
which generally characterized slaveholding ladies, were 
all quite absent from her manner and bearing toward 

She had never been a slaveholder — a thing then quite 
unusual at the South — but had depended almost entirely 
upon her own industry for a living. To this fact the dear 
lady no doubt owed the excellent preservation of her nat- 
ural goodness of heart, for slavery could change a saint 
into a sinner, and an angel into a demon. I hardly knew 
how to behave towards " Miss Soplia," as I used to call 
Mrs. Hugh Auld. I could not approach her even as I 
had formerly approached Mrs. Thomas Auld. Why 
should I hang down my head, and speak with bated 
breath, when there was no pride to scorn me, no coldness 
to repel me, and no hatred to inspire me with fear ? I 
therefore soon came to regard her as something more 
akin to a mother than a slaveholding mistress. So far 
from deeming it impudent in a slave to look her straight 
in the face, she seemed ever to say, " look up, child; don't 
be afraid." The sailors belonging to tlie sloop esteemed 
it a great privilege to be the bearers of parcels or mes- 
sages for her, for whenever they came, they were sure of a 
most kind and pleasant reception. If little Thomas was 
her son, and her most dearly loved child, she made me 
something like his half-brother in her affections. If dear 
Tommy was exalted to a place on his mother's knee, 
" Freddy " was honored by a place at tlie mother's side. 
Nor did the slave-boy lack the caressing strokes of her 
gentle hand, soothing him into the consciousness that, 
though motherless, he was not friendless. Mrs. Auld was 
not only kind-hearted, but remarkably pious; frequent in 
her attendance of public worship, much given to reading 
the Bible, and to chanting hymns of praise when alone. 


Mr. Hugh was altogether a different character. He cared 
very little about religion ; knew more of the world and 
was more a part of the world, than his wife. He set out 
doubtless to be, as the world goes, a respectable man, and 
to get on by becoming a successful ship-builder, in that 
city of ship-building. This was his ambition, and it fully 
occupied him. I was of course of very little consequence^ 
to him, and when he smiled upon me, as he sometimes 
did, the smile was borrowed from his lovely wife, and like 
borrowed light, was transient, and vanished with the 
source whence it was derived. Though I must in truth 
characterize Master Hugh as a sour man of forbidding 
appearance, it is due to him to acknowledge that he was 
never cruel to me, according to the notion of cruelty in 
Maryland. During the first year or two, he left me al- 
most exclusively to the management of his wife. She 
was my law-giver. In hands so tender as hers, and in the 
absence of the cruelties of the plantation, I became both 
physically and mentally much more sensitive, and a frown 
from my mistress caused me far more suffering than had 
Aunt Katy's hardest cuffs. Instead of the cold, damp 
floor of my old master's kitchen, I was on carpets ; for 
the corn bag in winter, I had a good straw bed, well fur- 
nished with covers ; for the coarse corn meal in the morn- 
ing, I had good bread and mush occasionally ; for my old 
tow-linen shirt, I had good clean clothes. I was really 
well off. My employment was to run of errands, and to 
take care of Tommy ; to prevent his getting in the way 
of carriages, and to keep him out of harm's way gen- 

So for a time everything went well. I say for a time, 
because the fatal poison of irresponsible power, and the 
natural influence of slave customs, were not very long in 
making their impression on the gentle and loving dispo- 
sition of my excellent mistress. She regarded me at first 


as a child, like any other. This was the natural and 
spontaneous thought ; afterwards, when she came to con- 
sider me as property, our relations to each other were 
changed, but a nature so noble as hers could not instantly 
become perverted, and it took several years before the 
sweetness of her temper was wholly lost. 

The frequent hearing of my mistress reading the Bible 
aloud, for she often read aloud when her husband was 
absent, awakened my curiosity in respect to this mystery 
of reading, and roused in me the desire to learn. Up to 
this time I had known nothing whatever of this wonder- 
ful art, and my ignorance and inexperience of what it 
could do for me, as well as my confidence in my mistress, 
emboldened me to ask her to teach me to read. With an 
unconsciousness and inexperience equal to my own, she 
readily consented, and in an incredibly short time, by her 
kind assistance, I had mastered the alphabet and could 
spell words of three or four letters. My mistress seemed 
almost as proud of my progress as if I had been her own 
child, and supposing that her husband would be as well 
pleased, she made no secret of what she was doing for 
me. Indeed, she exultingly told him of the aptness of 
her pupil, and of her intention to persevere in teaching 
me, as she felt her duty to do, at least to read the Bible. 
And here arose the first dark cloud over my Baltimore 
prospects, the precursor of chilling blasts and drenching 
storms. Master Hugh was astounded beyond measure, 
and probably for the first time proceeded to unfold to his 
wife the true philosophy of the slave system, and the 
peculiar rules necessary in the nature of the case to be 
observed in the management of human chattels. Of 
course he forbade her to give me any further instruction, 
telling her in the first place that to do so was unlawful, 
as it was also unsafe ; " for," said he, " if you give a nig- 
ger an inch he will take an ell. Learning will spoil the 

Mrs. Auld teaching him to Read. 


best nigger in the world. If he learns to read the Bible 
it will forever unlit him to be a slave. He should know 
nothing but the will of his master, and learn to obey it. 
As to himself, learning will do him no good, but a great 
deal of harm, making him disconsolate and unhappy. If 
you teach him how to read, he'll want to know how to 
write, and this accomplished, he'll be running away with 
himself." Such was the tenor of Master Hugh's oracular 
exposition ; and it must be confessed that he very clearly 
comprehended the nature and the requirements of the rela- 
tion of master and slave. His discourse was the first de- 
cidedly anti-slavery lecture to which it had been my lot to 
listen. Mrs. Auld evidently felt the force of what he 
said, and like an obedient wife, began to shape her course 
in the direction indicated by him. The effect of his words 
on me was neither slight nor transitory. His iron sen- 
tences, cold and harsh, sunk like heavy weights deep into 
my heart, and stirred up within me a rebellion not soon to 
be allayed. 

This was a new and special revelation, dispelling a pain- 
ful mystery against which my youthful understanding 
had struggled, and struggled in vain, to wit, the white 
man's power to perpetuate the enslavement of the black 
man. " Very well," thought I. " Knowledge unfits a 
child to be a slave." I instinctively assented to the pro- 
position, and from that moment I understood the direct 
pathway from slavery to freedom. It was just what I 
needed, and it came to me at a time and from a source 
whence I least expected it. Of course I was greatly sad- 
dened at the thought of losing the assistance of my kind 
mistress, but the information so instantly derived to some 
extent compensated me for the loss I had sustained in 
this direction. Wise as Mr. Auld was, he underrated my 
comprehension, and had little idea of the use to which I 
was capable of putting the impressive lesson he was giv- 

98 ' MASTER Hugh's exposition of slavery. 

ing to his wife. He wanted me to be a slave ; I had al- 
ready voted against that on the home plantation of Col. 
Lloyd. That which he most loved I most hated ; and the 
very determination which he expressed to keep me in ig- 
norance only rendered me the more resolute to seek intel- 
ligence. In learning to read, therefore, I am not sure that 
I do not owe quite as much to the opposition of my mas- 
ter as to the kindly assistance of my amiable mistress. I 
acknowledge the benefit rendered me by the one, and by 
the other, believing that but for my mistress I might have 
grown up in ignorance. 



My mistress — Her slaveholding duties — Their effects on her originally 
noble nature — The conflict in her mind — She opposes my learning to 
read — Too late — She had given me the "inch," I was resolved to 
take the "ell" — How I pursued my study to read — My tutors — 
What progress I made — Slavery — What I heard said about it — Thir- 
teen years old — Columbian orator — Dialogue — Speeches — Sheridan 
— Pitt — Lords Chatham and Fox — Knowledge increasing — Liberty 
— Singing — Sadness — Unhappiness of Mrs. Sophia — My hatred of 
slavery — One Upas tree overshadows us all. 

I LIVED in the family of Mr. Auld, at Baltimore, seven 
years, during which time, as the almanac makers say 
of the weather, my condition was variable. The most in- 
teresting feature of my history here was my learning to 
read and write under somewhat marked disadvantages. 
In attaining this knowledge I was compelled to resort to 
indirections by no means congenial to my nature, and 
which were really humiliating to my sense of candor and 
uprightness. My mistress, checked in her benevolent 
designs toward me, not only ceased instructing me 
herself, but set her face as a flint against my learning to 
read by any means. It is due to her to say, however, 
that she did not adopt this course in all its stringency at 
first. She either thought it unnecessary, or she lacked 
the depravity needed to make herself forget at once my 
human nature. She was, as I have said, naturally a kind 
and tender-hearted woman, and in the humanity of her 
heart and the simplicity of her mind, she set out, when I 
first went to live with her, to treat me as she supposed 
one human being ought to treat another. 



Nature never intended that men and women should be 
citlier slaves or slaveholders, and nothing but rigid train- 
ing long persisted in, can perfect the character of the one 
or the other. 

Mrs. Auld was singularly deficient in the qualities of a 
slaveholder. It was no easy matter for her to think or 
to feel that the curly-headed boy, who stood by her side, 
and even leaned on her lap, wlio was loved by little Tom- 
my, and who loved little Tommy in turn, sustained to her 
only the relation of a chattel. I was more than that; she 
felt me to be more than that. I could talk and sing ; I 
could laugh and weep ; I could reason and remember ; I 
could love and hate. I was human, and she, dear lady, 
knew and felt me to be so. How could she then treat me 
as a brute without a mighty struggle with all the noblest 
powers of her soul ? That struggle came, and the will 
and power of the husband were victorious. Her noble 
soul was overcome, and he who wrought the wrong was 
injured in the fall no less than the rest of the household. 
When I went into that household, it was the abode of 
happiness and contentment. The wife and mistress there 
was a model of affection and tenderness. Her fervent 
piety and watchful uprightness made it impossible to see 
her without thinking and feeling " that woman is a Chris- 
tian." There was no sorrow nor suffering for which she 
had not a tear, and there was no innocent joy for which 
she had not a smile. She had bread for the hungry, 
clothes for the naked, and comfort for every mourner who 
came within her reach. 

But slavery soon proved its ability to divest her of 
these excellent qualities, and her home of its early happi- 
ness. Conscience cannot stand much violence. Once 
thoroughly injured, who is he who can repair the damage ? 
If it be broken toward the slave on Sunday, it will be 
toward the master on Monday. It cannot long endure 


such shocks. It must stand unharmed, or it does not 
stand at all. As my condition in the family waxed bad, 
that of the family waxed no better. The first step in the 
wrong direction was the violence done to nature and to 
conscience in arresting the benevolence that would have 
enlightened my young mind. In ceasing to instruct me, 
my mistress had to seek to justify herself to lierself, and 
once consenting to take sides in such a debate, she was 
compelled to hold her position. One needs little knowl- 
edge of moral philosophy to see where she inevitably 
landed. She finally became even more violent in her 
opposition to my learning to read than was Mr. Auld 
liimself. Nothing now appeared to make her more angry 
than seeing me, seated in some nook or corner, quietly 
reading a book or newspaper. She would rush at me 
with the utmost fury, and snatch the book or paper from 
my hand, with something of the wrath and consternation 
which a traitor might be supposed to feel on being dis- 
covered in a plot by some dangerous spy. The conviction 
once thoroughly established in her mind, that education 
and slavery were incompatible with each other, I was 
most narrowly watched in all my movements. If I re- 
mained in a separate room from the family for any con- 
siderable length of time, I was sure to be suspected of 
having a book, and was at once called to give an account 
of myself. But this was too late : the first and never-to- 
be-retraced step had been taken. Teaching me the 
alphabet had been the "inch" given, I was now waiting 
only for the opportunity to " take the ell." 

Filled with the determination to learn to read at any 
cost, I hit upon many expedients to accomplish that much 
desired end. The plan which I mainly adopted, and the 
one which was the most successful, was that of using my 
young white playmates, with whom I met on the streets, 
as teachers. I used to carry almost constantly a copy of 


Webster's spelling-book in my pocket, and when sent of 
errands, or when play-time was allowed me, I would step 
aside with my young friends and take a lesson in spelling. 
I am greatly indebted to these boys — Gustavus Dorgan, 
Joseph Bailey, Charles Farity, and William Cosdry. 

Although slavery was a delicate subject, and very cau- 
tiously talked about among grown up people in Maryland, 
I frequently talked about it, and that very freely, with 
the white boys. I would sometimes say to them, while 
seated on a curbstone or a cellar door, "I wish I could be 
free, as you will be when you get to be men." " You will 
be free, you know, as soon as you are twenty-one, and can 
go where you like, but I am a slave for life. Have I not 
as good aright to be free as you have?" Words like 
these, I observed, always troubled them ; and I had no 
small satisfaction in drawing out from them, as I occa- 
sionally did, that fresh and bitter condemnation of 
slavery which ever springs from nature unseared and 
unperverted. Of all conscience, let me have those to 
deal with, which have not been seared and bewildered 
with the cares and perplexities of life. I do not remem- 
ber ever to have met with a hoy while I was in slavery, 
who defended the system, but I do remember many times, 
when I was consoled by them, and by them encouraged 
to hope that something would yet occur by which I would 
be made free. Over and over again, they have told me 
that " they believed I had as good a right to be free as 
they had," and that " they did not believe God ever made 
any one to be a slave." It is easily seen that such little 
conversations with my playfellows had no tendency to 
weaken my love of liberty, nor to render me contented as 
a slave. 

When I was about tliirteen years old, and had suc- 
ceeded in learning to read, every increase of knowledge, 
especially anything respecting the free states, was an 


additional weight to the almost intolerable burden of my 
thought — " I am a slave for life^ - To my bondage I 
could see no end. It was a terrible reality, and I shall 
never be able to tell how sadly that thought chafed my 
young spirit. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I had earned 
a little money in blacking boots for some gentlemen, with 
which I purchased of Mr. Knight, on Thames street, what 
was then a very popular school book, viz., " The Colum- 
bian Orator," for which I paid fifty cents. I was led to 
buy this book by hearing some little boys say they were 
going to learn some pieces out of it for the exhibition. 
This volume was indeed a rich treasure, and every oppor- 
tunity afforded me, for a time, was spent in diligently 
perusing it. Among much other interesting matter, that 
which I read again and again with unflagging satisfaction 
was a short dialogue between a master and his slave. 
The slave is represented as having been recaptured in a 
second attempt to run away ; and the master opens the 
dialogue with an upbraiding speech, charging the slave 
with ingratitude, and demanding to know what he has to 
say in his own defense. Thus upbraided and thus called 
upon to reply, the slave rejoins that he knows how little 
anything that he can say will avail, seeing that he is 
completely in the hands of his owner; and with noble 
resolution, calmly says, " I submit to my fate." Touched 
by the slave's answer, the master insists upon his further 
speaking, and recapitulates the many acts of kindness 
which he has performed toward the slave, and tells him 
he is permitted to speak for himself. Thus invited, the 
quondam slave made a spirited defense of himself, and 
thereafter the whole argument for and against slavery is 
brought out. The master was vanquished at every turn 
in the argument, and appreciating the fact he generously 
and meekly emancipates the slave, with his best wishes 
for his prosperity. 


It is unnecessary to say that a dialogue with such 
an origin and such an end, read by me when every nerve 
of my being was in revolt at my own condition as a slave, 
affected me most powerfully. I could not help feeling 
that the day might yet come when the well-directed 
answers made by the slave to the master, in this instance, 
would find a counterpart in my own experience. This, 
however, was not all the fanaticism which I found in the 
Columbian Orator. I met there one of Sheridan's mighty 
speeches on the subject of Catholic Emancipation, Lord 
Chatham's speech on the American War, and speeches by 
the great William Pitt, and by Fox. These were all 
choice documents to me, and I read them over and over 
again, with an interest ever increasing, because it was 
ever gaining in intelligence ; for the more I read them 
the better I understood tliem. The reading of these 
speeches added much to my limited stock of language, 
and enabled me to give tongue to many interesting 
thoughts which had often flashed through my mind and 
died away for want of words in which to give them utter- 
ance. The mighty power and heart-searching directness 
of truth penetrating the heart of a slave-holder, compelling 
him to yield up his earthly interests to the claims of eter- 
nal justice, were finely illustrated in the dialogue, and 
from the speeches of Sheridan I got a bold and powerful 
denunciation of oppression and a most brilliant vindica- 
tion of the rights of man. 

Here was indeed a noble acquisition. If I had ever 
wavered under the consideration that the Almighty, in 
some way, had ordained slavery and willed my enslave- 
ment for His own glory, I wavered no longer. I had now 
penetrated to the secret of all slavery and all oppression, 
and had ascertained their true foundation to be in the 
pride, the power, and the avarice of man. With a book 
in my hand so redolent of the principles of liberty, with a 

master's predictions verified. 105 

perception of my own human nature and the facts of my 
past and present experience, I was equal to a contest with 
the religious advocates of slavery, whether white or black, 
for blindness in this matter was not confined to the white 
people. I have met many good, religious colored people 
at the south, who were under the delusion that God re- 
quired them to submit to slavery and to wear their chains 
with meekness and humility. I could entertain no such 
nonsense as this, and I quite lost my patience when I 
found a colored man weak enough to believe such stuff. 
Nevertheless, eager as I was to partake of the tree of 
knowledge, its fruits were bitter as well as sweet. 
" Slaveholders," thought I, " are only a band of success- 
ful robbers, who, leaving their own homes, went into 
Africa for the purpose of stealing and reducing my people 
to slavery." I loathed them as the meanest and the most 
wicked of men. And as I read, behold ! the very discon- 
tent so graphically predicted by Master Hugh had already 
come upon me. I was no longer the light-hearted, glee- 
some boy, full of mirth and play, as when I landed in 
Baltimore. Light had penetrated the moral dungeon 
where I had lain, and I saw the bloody whip for my back, 
and the iron chain for my feet, and my good^ kind master, 
he was the author of my situation. The revelation 
haunted me, stung me, and made me gloomy and miser- 
able. As I writhed under. the sting and torment of this 
knowledge I almost envied my fellow slaves their stupid 
indifference. It opened my eyes to the horrible pit, and 
revealed the teeth of the frightful dragon that was ready 
to pounce upon me ; but alas, it opened no way for my 
escape. I wished myself a beast, a bird, anything rather 
than a slave. I was wretched and gloomy beyond my 
ability to describe. This everlasting thinking distressed 
and tormented me ; and yet there was no getting rid of 
this subject of my thoughts. Liberty, as the inestimable 


birthright of every man, converted every object into an 
asscrter of this right. I hoard it in eve^y sound, and saw 
it in every object. It was ever present to torment me 
with a sense of my wretchedness. The more beautiful 
and charming were the smiles of nature, the more hor- 
rible and desolate was my condition. I saw nothing 
without seeing it, and I heard nothing without hearing it. 
I do not exaggerate when I say it looked at me in every 
star, it smiled in every calm, breathed in every wind, and 
moved in every storm. I have no doubt that my state of 
mind had something to do with the change in treatment 
which my mistress adopted towards me. I can easily 
believe that my leaden, downcast, and disconsolate look 
was very offensive to her. Poor lady ! She did not un- 
derstand my trouble, and I could not tell her. Could I 
have made her acquainted with the real state of my mind 
and given her the reasons therefor, it might have been 
well for both of us. As it was, her abuse fell upon me 
like the blows of the false prophet upon his ass; she did 
not know that an angel stood in the way. Nature made 
us friends, but slavery had made us enemies. My inter- 
ests were in a direction opposite to hers, and we both had 
our private thoughts and plans. She aimed to keep me 
ignorant, and I resolved to know, although knowledge 
only increased my misery. My feelings were not the 
result of any marked cruelty in the treatment I received ; 
they sprung from the consideration of my being a slave 
at all. It was slavery, not its mere incidents I hated. I 
had been cheated. I saw through the attempt to keep 
me in ignorance. I saw that slaveholders would have 
gladly made me believe that they were merely acting 
under the authority of God in making a slave of me and 
in making slaves of others, and I felt to them as to Job- 
bers and deceivers. The feeding and clothing me well 
could not atone for taking my liberty from me. The 

HIS mistress' changed treatment. 107 

smiles of my mistress could not remove the deep sorrow- 
that dwelt in my young bosom. Indeed, these came in 
time but to deepen my sorrow. She had changed, and 
the reader will see that I had changed too. We were 
both victims to the same overshadowing evil, she as 
mistress, I as slave. I will not censure her harshly. 



Abolitionists spoken of — Eagerness to know the meaning of word — 
Consults the dictionary — Incendiary information — The enigma 
solved — "Nat Turner" insurrection — Cholera — Religion — Metho- 
dist minister — Religious impressions — Father Lawson — His char- 
acter and occupation — His influence over me — Our mutual attach- 
ment — New hopes and aspirations — Heavenly light — Two Irishmen 
on wharf — Conversation with them — Learning to write — My 

IN the unhappy state of mind described in the fore- 
going chapter, regretting my very existence because 
doomed to a life of bondage, so goaded and so wretched 
as to be even tempted at times to take my own life, I was 
most keenly sensitive to know any and everything pos- 
sible that had any relation to the subject of slavery. I 
was all ears, all eyes, whenever the words slave or slavery 
dropped from the lips of any white person, and the occa- 
sions became more and more frequent when these words 
became leading ones in high, social debate at our house. 
Very often I would overhear Master Hugh, or some of 
his company, speak with much warmth of the " aholition- 
ists.^^ Who or what the abolitionists were, I was totally 
ignorant. I found, however, that whoever or whatever 
they might be, they were most cordinally hated and 
abused by slaveholders of every grade. I very soon dis- 
covered too, that slavery was, in some sort, under consid- 
eration whenever the abolitionists were alluded to. This 
made the term a very interesting one to me. If a slave 
had made good his escape from slavery, it was generally 
alleged that he had been persuaded and assisted to do so 



by the abolitionists. If a slave killed his master, or 
struck down his overseer, or set fire to his master's dwell- 
ing, or committed any violence or crime, out of the com- 
mon way, it was certain to be said that such a crime was 
the legitimate fruits of the abolition movement. Hearing 
such charges often repeated, I, naturally enough, received 
the impression that abolition — whatever else it might be 
— was not unfriendly to the slave, nor very friendly to 
the slaveholder. I therefore set about finding out, if pos- 
sible, who and what the abolitionists were, and why they 
were so obnoxious to the slaveholders. The dictionary 
offered me very little help. It taught me that abolition 
was " the act of abolishing ; " but it left me in ignorance 
at the very point where I most wanted information, and 
that was, as to the thing to be abolished. A city news- 
paper — the " Baltimore American " — gave me the in- 
cendiary information denied me by the dictionary. In its 
columns I found that on a certain day a vast number of 
petitions and memorials had been presented to Congress, 
praying for the abolition of slavery in the District of 
Columbia, and for the abolition of the slave trade between 
the States of the Union. This was enough. The vindic- 
tive bitterness, the marked caution, the studied reserve, 
and the ambiguity practiced by our white folks when 
alluding to this subject, was now fully explained. Ever 
after that, when I heard the word abolition, I felt the 
matter one of a personal concern, and I drew near to 
listen whenever I could do so, without seeming too solici- 
tous and prying. There was HOPE in those words. Ever 
and anon too, I could see some terrible denunciation of 
slavery in our papers, — copied from abolition papers at 
the North, — and the injustice of such denunciation com- 
mented on. These I read with avidity. I had a deep 
satisfaction in the thought that the rascality of slave- 
holders w^as not concealed from the eyes of the world, and 


that I was not alone in abhorring the cruelty and brutality 
of slavery. A still deeper train of thought was stirred. I 
saw that there was fear as well as rage in the manner 
of speaking of the abolitionists, and from this I inferred 
that they must have some power in the country, and I 
felt that they might perhaps succeed in their designs. 
Wlien I met with a slave to whom I deemed it safe to 
talk on the subject, I would impart to him so much of the 
mystery as I had been able to penetrate. Thus the light 
of this grand movement broke in upon my mind by de- 
grees ; and I must say that ignorant as I was of the phi- 
losophy of that movement, 1 believed in it from the first, 
and I believed in it, partly, because I saw that it alarmed 
the consciences of the slaveholders. The insurrection of 
Nat. Turner had been quelled, but the alarm and terror 
which it occasioned had not subsided. The cholera was 
then on its way to this country, and I remember thinking 
that God was angry with the white people because of 
their slaveholding wickedness, and therefore his judg- 
ments were abroad in the land. Of course it was impos- 
sible for me not to hope much for the abolition movement 
when I saw it supported by tlie Almighty, and armed 

with DEATH. 

Previously to my contemplation of the anti-slavery move- 
ment and its probable results, my mind had been seriously 
awakened to the subject of religion. I was not more 
than thirteen years old, when in my loneliness and desti- 
tution I longed for some one to whom I could go, as to a 
father and protector. The preaching of a white Metho- 
dist minister, named Hanson, was the means of causing 
me to feel that in God I had such a friend. He thought 
that all men, great and small, bond and free, were sinners 
in the sight of God : that they were by nature rebels 
against his government ; and that they must repent of 
their sins, and be reconciled to God through Christ. I 


cannot say that I liad a very distinct notion of what 
was required of me, but one thing I did know well : I was 
wretched and had no means of making myself otherwise. 
I consulted a good colored man named Charles Lawson, 
and in tones of holy affection he told me to pray, and to 
" cast all my care upon God." This I sought to do ; and 
though for weeks I was a poor, broken-hearted mourner, 
traveling through doubts and fears, I finally found my 
burden lightened, and my heart relieved. I loved all 
mankind, slaveholders not excepted, though I abhorred 
slavery more than ever. I saw the world in a new light, 
and my great concern was to have everybody converted. 
My desire to learn increased, and especially did I want a 
thorough acquaintance with the contents of the Bible. I 
have gathered scattered pages of the Bible from the filthy 
street-gutters, and washed and dried them, that in mo- 
ments of leisure I might get a word or two of wisdom from 
them. While thus religiously seeking knowledge, I be- 
came acquainted with a good old colored man named Law- 
son. This man not only prayed three times a day, but he 
prayed as he walked through the streets, at his work, on 
his dray — everywhere. His life was a life of prayer, and 
his words when he spoke to any one, were about a better 
world. Uncle Lawson lived near Master Hugh's house, 
and becoming deeply attached to him, I went often with 
him to prayer-meeting, and spent much of my leisure time 
with him on Sunday. The old man could read a little, 
and I was a great help to him in making out the hard 
words, for I was a better reader than he. I could teach 
him " the letter," but he could teach me " the spirit," and 
refreshing times we had together, in singing and praying. 
These meetings went on for a long time without the 
knowledge of Master Hugh or my mistress. Both knew, 
however, that I had become religious, and seemed to 
respect my conscientious piety. My mistress was still a 


professor of religion, and belonged to class. Her leader 
was no less a person than Rev. Beverly Waiigli, the pre- 
siding elder, and afterwards one of the bishops of the 
Methodist Episcopal church. 

In view of the cares and anxieties incident to the life 
she was leading, and especially in view of the separation 
from religious associations to which she was subjected, 
my mistress had, as I have before stated, become luke- 
warm, and needed to be looked up by her leader. This 
often brought Mr. Waugh to our house, and gave me an 
opportunity to hear him exhort and pray. But my chief 
instructor in religious matters was Uncle Lawson. He 
was my spiritual father and I loved him intensely, and 
was at his house every chance I could get. This pleasure, 
however, was not long unquestioned. Master Hugh 
became averse to our intimacy, and threatened to whip 
me if I ever went there again. I now felt myself perse- 
cuted by a wicked man, and I would go. The good old 
man had told me that the " Lord had great work for me 
to do," and I must prepare to do it ; that he had been 
shown that I must preach the gospel. His words made 
a very deep impression upon me, and I verily felt that 
some such work was before me, though I could not see 
how I could ever engage in its performance. " The good 
Lord would bring it to pass in his own good time," he 
said, and that I must go on reading and studying the 
Scriptures. This advice and these suggestions were not 
without their influence on my character and destiny. 
He fanned my already intense love of knowledge into a 
flame by assuring me that I was to be a useful man in the 
world. When I would say to him, " How can these 
things be ? and what can I do ? " his simple reply was, 
" Trust in the LordP When I would tell him, "I am a 
slave, and a slave for life, how can I do anything ? " he 
would quietly answer, " The Lord can make you free, my 


dear; all things are possible with Him; only have /a^^^ 
in God. * Ask, and it shall be given you.' If you want 
liberty, ask the Lord for it in faith, and He will give it to 

Thus assured and thus cheered on under the inspiration 
of hope, I worked and prayed with a light heart, believing 
that my life was under the guidance of a wisdom higher 
than my own. With all other blessings sought at the 
mercy seat, I always prayed that God would, of His great 
mercy, and in His own good time, deliver me from my 

I went, one day, on the wharf of Mr. Waters, and see- 
ing two Irishmen unloading a scow of stone or ballast, I 
went on board unasked, and helped them. When we had 
finished the work one of the men came to me, aside, and 
asked me a number of questions, and among them if I 
were a slave ? I told him " I was a slave for life." The 
good Irishman gave a slirug, and seemed deeply affected. 
He said it was a pity so fine a little fellow as I was should 
be a slave for life. They both had much to say about the 
matter, and expressed the deepest sympathy with me, and 
the most decided hatred of slavery. They went so far as 
to tell me that I ought to run away and go to the north ; 
that I should find friends there, and that I should then 
be as free as anybody. I pretended not to be interested in 
what they said, for I feared they might be treacherous. 
White men were not unfrequently known to encourage 
slaves to escape, and then, to get the reward, they would 
kidnap them and return them to their masters. While 
I mainly inclined to the notion that these men were 
honest and meant me no ill, I feared it might be other- 
wise. I nevertheless remembered their words and their 
advice, and looked forward to an escape to the north as a 
possible means of gaining the liberty for which my heart 
panted. It was not my enslavement at the then present 


time which most afTectcd me ; the being a slave for life 
was the saddest thought. I was too young to think of 
running away immediately ; besides, I wished to learn to 
write before going, as I might have occasion to write my 
own pass. I now not only had the hope of freedom, but 
a foreshadowing of the means by which I might some 
day gain that inestimable boon. Meanwhile I resolved 
to add to my educational attainments the art of writing. 

After this manner I began to learn to write. I was 
much in the ship-yard — Master Hugh's, and that of 
Durgan k Bailey, and I observed that the carpenters, 
after hewing and getting ready a piece of timber to use, 
wrote on it the initials of the name of that part of the 
ship for which it was intended. When, for instance, a 
piece of timber was ready for the starboard side, it was 
marked with a capital " S." A piece for the larboard 
side was marked " L." ; larboard forward was marked 
"L. F. ;" larboard aft was marked "L. A."; starboard 
aft, " S. A." ; and starboard forward, " S. F." I soon 
learned these letters, and for what they were placed on 
the timbers. 

My work now was to keep fire under the steam-box, 
and to watch the ship-yard while the carpenters had 
gone to dinner. This interval gave me a fine opportunity 
for copying the letters named. I soon astonished myself 
with the ease with which I made the letters, and the 
thought was soon present, " If I can make four letters I 
can make more." Having made these readily and easily, 
when I met boys about the Bethel church or on any of 
our play-grounds, I entered the lists with them in the art 
of writing, and would make the letters which I had been 
so fortunate as to learn, and ask them to " beat that if they 
could." With play-mates for my teachers, fences and 
pavements for my copy-books, and chalk for my pen and 
ink, I learned to write. I however adopted, afterward, 


various methods for improving my hand. The most suc- 
cessful was copying the italics in Webster's spelling-book 
until I could make them all without looking on the book. 
By this time my little " Master Tommy'* had grown to be 
a big boy, and had written over a number of copy-books 
and brought them home. They had been shown to the 
neighbors, had elicited due praise, and had been laid care- 
fully away. Spending parts of my time both at the ship- 
yard and the house, I was often the lone keeper of the 
latter as of the former. When my mistress left me in 
charge of the house I had a grand time. I got Master 
Tommy's copy-books and a pen and ink, and in the ample 
spaces between the lines I wrote other lines as nearly like 
his as possible. The process was a tedious one, and I 
ran the risk of getting a flogging for marking the highly- 
prized copy-books of the oldest son. In addition to these 
opportunities, sleeping as I did in the kitchen loft, a room 
seldom visited by any of the family, I contrived to get a 
flour-barrel up there and a chair, and upon the head of 
that barrel I have written, or endeavored to write, copy- 
ing from the Bible and the Methodist hymn-book, and 
other books which I had accumulated, till late at night, 
and when all the family were in bed and asleep. I was 
supported in my endeavors by renewed advice and by 
holy promises from the good father Lawson, with whom 
1 continued to meet and pray and read the Scriptures. 
Although Master Hugh was aware of these meetings, I 
must say for his credit that he never executed his threats 
to whip me for having thus innocently employed my 
leisure time. 



Death of old Master's son Richard speedily followed by that of old 
Master — Valuation and division of all the property, including the 
slaves — Sent for to come to Hillsborough to be valued and divided 
— Sad prospects and grief — Parting — Slaves have no voice in 
deciding their own destinies — General dread of falling into Master 
Andrew's hands — His drunkenness — Good fortune in falling to 
Miss Lucretia — She allows my return to Baltimore — Joy at Master 
Hugh's — Death of Miss Lucretia — Master Thomas Auld's second 
marriage — The new wife unlike the old — Again removed from 
Master Hugh's — Reasons for regret — Plan of escape. 

I MUST now ask the reader to go back with me a 
little in point of time, in my humble story, and 
notice another circumstance that entered into my slavery 
experience, and which, doubtless, has had a share in 
deepening my horror of slavery, and my hostility toward 
those men and measures that practically uphold the slave 

It has already been observed that though I was, after 
my removal from Col. Lloyd's plantation, in form the 
slave of Master Hugh Auld, I was in fact and in law tlie 
slave of my old master, Capt. Anthony. Very well. In 
a very short time after I went to Baltimore my old 
master's youngest son, Richard, died ; and in three years 
and six months after my old master himself died, leaving 
only his daughter Lucretia and his son Andrew to share 
the estate. The old man died wliile on a visit to his 
daughter in Hillsborough, where Capt. Auld and Mrs. 
Lucretia now lived, Master Thomas having given up the 



command of Col. Lloyd's sloop and was now keeping 
store in that town. 

Cut off thus unexpectedly, Capt. Anthony died intes- 
tate, and his property must be equally divided between 
his two children, Andrew and Lucretia. 

The valuation and division of slaves among contending 
heirs was a most important incident in slave life. The 
characters and tendencies of the heirs were generally well 
understood by tlie slaves who were to be divided, and all 
had their aversions and their preferences. But neither 
their aversions nor their preferences availed anything. 

On the death of old master I was immediately sent for 
to be valued and divided with the other property. Per- 
sonally, my concern was mainly about my possible re- 
moval from the home of Master Hugh, for up to this time 
there had no dark clouds arisen to darken the sky of that 
happy abode. It was a sad day to me when I left for the 
Eastern Shore, to be valued and divided, as it was for my 
dear mistress and teacher, and for little Tommy. We all 
three wept bitterly, for we were parting, and it might be 
we were parting forever. No one could tell amongst 
which pile of chattels I might be flung. Thus early, I 
got a foretaste of that painful uncertainty which in one 
form or another was ever obtruding itself in the pathway 
of the slave. It furnished me a new insight into the 
unnatural power to which I was subjected. Sickness, 
adversity, and death may interfere with the plans and 
purposes of all, but the slave had the added danger of 
changing homes, in the separations unknown to other 
men. Then, too, there was the intensified degradation of 
the spectacle. What an assemblage ! Men and women, 
young and old, married and single ; moral and thinking 
human beings, in open contempt of their humanity , leveled 
at a blow with horses, sheep, horned cattle, and swine. 
Horses and men, cattle and women, pigs and children — 


all holding the same rank in the scale of social existence, 
and all subjected to the same narrow inspection, to ascer- 
tain their value in gold and silver — the only standard of 
worth applied by slaveholders to their slaves. Personality 
swallowed up in the sordid idea of property ! Manhood 
lost in chattelhood ! 

The valuation over, then came the division and appor- 
tionment. Our destiny was to be fixed for life^ and we 
had no more voice in the decision of the question than 
the oxen and cows that stood chewing at the hay-mow. 
One word of the appraisers, against all preferences and 
prayers, could sunder all the ties of friendship and affec- 
tion, even to separating husbands and wives, parents and 
children. We were all appalled before that power which, 
to human seeming, could bless or blast us in a moment. 
Added to this dread of separation, most painful to the 
majority of the slaves, we all had a decided horror of 
falling into the hands of Master Andrew, who was dis- 
tinguished for his cruelty and intemperance. 

Slaves had a great dread, very naturally, of falling into 
the hands of drunken owners. Master Andrew was a 
confirmed sot, and had already by his profligate dissipa- 
tion wasted a large portion of his father's property. To 
fall into his hands, therefore, was considered as the first 
step toward being sold away to the far South. He would 
no doubt spend his fortune in a few years, it was thought, 
and his farms and slaves would be sold at public auction, 
and the slaves hurried away to the cotton-fields and rice- 
swamps of the burning South. This was cause of deep 

The people of the North, and free people generally, I 
think, have less attachment to the places where they are 
born and brought up than had the slaves. Their freedom 
to come and go, to be here or there, as they list, prevents 
any extravagant attachment to any one particular place. 

plummer's rule on their backs. 119 

On the other hand, the slave was a fixture ; ho had no 
choice, no goal, but was pegged down to one single spot, 
and must take root there or nowhere. The idea of re- 
moval elsewhere came generally in shape of a threat, and 
in punishment for crime. It was therefore attended with 
fear and dread. The enthusiasm which animates the 
bosoms of young freemen, when they contemplate a life 
in the far West, or in some distant country, where they 
expect to rise to wealth and distinction, could have no 
place in the thought of the slave ; nor could those from 
whom they separated know anything of that cheerfulness 
with which friends and relations yield each other up, 
when they feel that it is for the good of the departing one 
that he is removed from his native place. Then, too, 
there is correspondence and the hope of reunion, but with 
the slaves all these mitigating circumstances were want- 
ing. There was no improvement in condition probable — 
no correspondence possible — no reunion attainable. His 
going out into the world was like a living man going into 
the tomb, who, with open eyes, sees himself buried 
out of sight and hearing of wife, children, and friends of 
kindred tie. 

In contemplating the likelihoods and possibilities of 
our circumstances, I probably suffered more than most of 
my fellow-servants. I had known what it was to experi- 
ence kind and even tender treatment ; they had known 
nothing of the sort. Life to them had been rough and 
thorny, as well as dark. They had — most of them — 
lived on my old master's farm in Tuckahoe, and had felt 
the rigors of Mr. Plummer's rule. He had written his 
character on the living parchment of most of their backs, 
and left them seamed and callous ; my back (thanks to 
my early removal to Baltimore) was yet tender. I had 
left a kind mistress in tears when we parted, and the 
probability of ever seeing her again, trembling in the 


balance, as it were, could not fail to excite in me alarm 
and agony. The thought of becoming tlie slave of Andrew 
Anthony — who but a few days before the division had in 
my presence seized my brother Perry by the throat, dashed 
liim on the ground, and with the heel of his boot stamped 
him on the head, until the blood gushed from his nose 
and ears — was terrible! This fiendish proceeding had 
no better apology than the fact that Perry had gone to 
play when Master Andrew wanted him for some trifling 
service. After inflicting this cruel treatment on my 
brother, observing me, as I looked at him in astonish- 
ment, he said, " Thafs the way I'll serve you, one of 
these days " ; meaning, probably, when I should come 
into his possession. This threat, the reader may well 
suppose, was not very tranquilizing to my feelings. 

At last the anxiety and suspense were ended ; and 
ended, thanks to a kind Providence, in accordance with 
my wishes. I fell to the portion of Mrs. Lucretia, the 
dear lady who bound up my head in her father's kitchen, 
and shielded me from the maledictions of Aunt Katy. 

Capt. Thomas Auld and Mrs. Lucretia at once decided 
on my return to Baltimore. They knew how warmly 
Mrs. Hugh Auld was attached to me, and how delighted 
Tommy would be to see me, and withal, having no imme- 
diate use for me, they willingly concluded this arrange- 

I need not stop to narrate my joy on finding myself 
back in Baltimore. I was just one month absent, but the 
time seemed fully six months. 

I had returned to Baltimore but a short time when the 
tidings reached me that my kind friend, Mrs. Lucretia, 
was dead. She left one child, a daughter, named Amanda, 
of whom I shall speak again. Shortly after the death of 
Mrs. Lucretia, Master Andrew died, leaving a wife and 
one child. Thus the whole family of Anthonys, as it ex- 


isted when I went to Col. Lloyd's place, was swept away 
during the first five years' time of my residence at Master 
Hugh Auld's in Baltimore. 

No especial alteration took place in the condition of the 
slaves, in consequence of these deaths, yet I could not 
help the feeling that I was less secure now that Mrs. 
Lucretia was gone. While she lived, I felt that I had a 
strong friend to plead for me in any emergency. 

In a little book which I published six years after my 
escape from slavery, entitled, "Narrative of Frederick 
Douglass," — when the distance between the past then 
described and the present was not so great as it is now — 
speaking of these changes in my master's family, and 
their results, I used this language : " Now all the property 
of my old master, slaves included, was in the hands of 
strangers — strangers who had nothing to do in accumu- 
lating it. Not a slave was left free. All remained slaves, 
from the youngest to the oldest. If any one thing in my 
experience, more than another, had served to deepen my 
conviction of the infernal character of slavery, and fill me 
with unutterable loathing of slaveholders, it was their 
base ingratitude to my poor old grandmother. She had 
served my old master faithfully from youth to old age. 
She had been the source of aU his wealth ; she had peopled 
his plantation with slaves; she had become a great- 
grandmother in his service. She had rocked him in his 
infancy, attended him in his childhood, served him through 
life, and at his death wiped from his icy brow the cold 
death-sweat, and closed his eyes forever. She was never- 
theless a slave — a slave for life — a slave in the hands 
of strangers ; and in their hands she saw her children, 
her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren, divided 
like so many sheep, without being gratified with the small 
privilege of a single word as to their or her own destiny. 
And to cap the climax of their base ingratitude, my 

122 THE slave's poet. 

grandmother, who was now very old, having outlived my 
old master and all his children, having seen the beginning 
and end of them, and her present owner — his grandson 
— finding she was of but little value — her frame already 
racked with the pains of old age, and complete helpless- 
ness fast stealing over her once active limbs — took her 
to the woods, built her a little hut with a mud chimney, and 
then gave her the bounteous privilege of supporting her- 
self there in utter leneliness ; thus virtually turning her 
out to die. If my poor, dear old grandmother now lives, 
she lives to remember and mourn over the loss of children, 
the loss of grandchildren, and the loss of great-grand- 
children. They are, in the language of Whittier, the 
slave's poet : 

' Gone, gone, sold and gone, 
To the rice-swamp dank and lone ; 
Where the slave- whip ceaseless swings. 
Where the noisome insect stings, 
Where the fever-demon strews 
Poison with the falling dews, 
Where the sickly sunbeams glare 
Through the hot and misty air : — 

Gone, gone, sold and gone. 
To the rice-swamp, dank and lone, 
From Virginia's hills and waters — 
Woe is me, my stolen daughters 1* 

" The hearth is desolate. The unconscious children who 
once sang and danced in her presence are gone. She 
gropes her way, in the darkness of age, for a drink of 
water. Instead of the voices of her children, slie hears 
by day the moans of the dove, and by night the screams 
of the hideous owl. All is gloom. Tlie grave is at the 
door ; and now, weighed down by the pains and aches of 
old age, when the head inclines to the feet^ when the 
beginning and ending of human existence meet, and help- 
less infancy, and painful old age combine together, at this 



time, — tliis most needed time for the exercise of that 
tenderness and affection which children only can bestow 
on a declining parent, — my poor old grandmother, the 
devoted mother of twelve children, is left all alone, in 
yonder little hut, before a few dim cinders." 

Two years after the death of Mrs. Lucretia, Master 
Thomas married his second wife. Her name was Rowena 
Hamilton, the eldest daughter of Mr. William Hamilton, 
a rich slaveholder on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, 
who lived about five miles from St. Michaels, the then 
place of Master Thomas Auld's residence. 

Not long after his marriage. Master Thomas had a 
misunderstanding with Master Hugh, and as a means of 
punishing him, he ordered him to send me home. As 
the ground of the misunderstanding will serve to illustrate 
the character of Southern chivalry and Southern hu- 
manity, fifty years ago, I will relate it. 

Among the children of my Aunt Milly was a daughter 
named Henny. When quite a child, Henny had fallen into 
the fire and had burnt her hands so badly that they were 
of very little use to her. Her fingers were drawn almost 
into the palms of her hands. She could make out to do 
something, but she was considered hardly worth the hav- 
ing — of little more value than a horse with a broken leg. 
This unprofitable piece of property, ill-shapen, and 
disfigured, Capt. Auld sent off to Baltimore. 

After giving poor Henny a fair trial. Master Hugh and 
his wife came to the conclusion that they had no use for 
the poor cripple, and they sent her back to Master Thomas- 
This the latter took as an act of ingratitude on the part of 
his brother and as a mark of his displeasure, he required 
him to send me immediately to St. Michaels, saying, " if 
he cannot keep Hen., he shan't have Fred." 

Hero was another shock to my nerves, another breaking 


up of my plans, and another severance of my religious 
and social alliances. I was now a big boy. I had be- 
come quite useful to several young colored men, who had 
made me their teacher. I had taught some of them to 
read, and was accustomed to spend many of my leisure 
hours with them. Our attachment was strong, and I 
greatly dreaded the separation. But regrets with slaves 
were unavailing ; my wishes were nothing ; my happiness 
was the sport of my master. 

My regrets at leaving Baltimore now were not for the 
same reasons as when I before left the city to be valued 
and handed over to a new owner. 

A change had taken place, both in Master Hugh and in 
his once pious and affectionate wife. The influence of 
brandy and bad company on him, and of slavery and 
social isolation on her, had wrought disastrously upon the 
characters of both. Thomas was no longer " little Tom- 
my," but was a big boy, and had learned to assume the 
airs of his class towards me. My condition, therefore, in 
the house of Master Hugh was not by any means so com- 
fortable as in former years. My attachments were now 
outside of our family. They were to those to whom I im- 
parted instruction, and to those little white boys from 
whom I received instruction. There, too, was my dear 
old father, the pious Lawson, who was in all the Chris- 
tian graces the very counterpart of " Uncle Tom " — 
the resemblance so perfect that he might have been the 
original of Mrs. Stowe's Christian hero. The thought of 
leaving these dear friends greatly troubled me, for I was 
going without the hope of ever returning again ; the feud 
being most bitter, and apparently wholly irreconcilable. 

In addition to the pain of parting from friends, as 1 
supposed, forever, I had the added grief of neglected 
chances of escape to brood over. I had put off running 


away until I was now to be placed where opportunities 
for escape would be much more difficult, and less frequent. 
As we sailed down the Chesapeake bay, on board the 
sloop Amanda, to St Michaels, and were passed by the 
steamers plying between Baltimore and Philadelphia, I 
formed many a plan for my future, beginning and ending 
in the same determination — jQt to find some way of 
escape from slavery. 



St. Michaels and its inhabitants — Capt. Auld — His new wife — Suffer- 
ings from hunger — Forced to steal — Argument in vindication 
thereof — Southern camp-meeting — What Capt. Auld did there — 
Hopes — Suspicions — The result — Faith and works at variance — 
Position in the church — Poor Cousin Henny — Methodist Preachers 
— Their disregard of the slaves — One exception — Sabbath-school — 
How and by whom broken up — Sad ^^change in my prospects — 
Covey, the negro-breaker. 

ST. MICHAELS, the village in which was now my new 
home, compared favorably with villages in slave 
States generally, at this time — 1833. There were a few 
comfortable dwellings in it, but the place as a whole wore 
a dull, slovenly, enterprise-forsaken aspect. The mass of 
the buildings were of wood ; they had never enjoyed the 
artificial adornment of paint, and time and storms had 
worn off the bright color of the wood, leaving them 
almost as black as buildings charred by a conflagration. 

St. Michaels had, in former years, enjoyed some repu- 
tation as a ship-building community, but that business had 
almost entirely given place to oyster-fishing for the Bal- 
timore and Philadelphia markets, a course of life highly 
unfavorable to morals, industry, and manners. Miles 
river was broad, and its oyster-fishing grounds were 
extensive, and the fishermen were out often all day and 
a p^rt of the night, during autumn, winter and spring. 
This exposure was an excuse for carrying with them, in 
considerable quantities, spirituous liquors, the then sup- 
posed best antidote for cold. Each canoe was supplied 
with its jug of rum, and tippling among this class of the 



citizens became general. This drinking liabit, in an 
ignorant population, fostered coarseness, vulgarity, and 
an indolent disregard for the social improvement of the 
place, so that it was admitted by the few sober thinking 
people who remained there, that St. Michaels was an 
unsaintly, as well as unsightly place. 

I went to St. Michaels to live in March, 1833. I know 
the year, because it was the one succeeding the first 
cholera in Baltimore, and was also the year of that 
strange phenomenon when the heavens seemed about to 
part with their starry train. I witnessed this gorgeous 
spectacle, and was awe-struck. The air seemed filled with 
bright descending messengers from the sky. It was 
about daybreak when I saw this sublime scene. I was 
not without the suggestion, at the moment, that it might 
be the harbinger of the coming of the Son of Man ; and 
in my then state of mind I was prepared to hail Him as 
my friend and deliverer. I had read that the " stars 
shall fall from heaven," and they were now falling. I 
was suffering very much in my mind. It did seem that 
every time the young tendrils of my affection became 
attached they were rudely broken by some unnatural out- 
side power ; and I was looking away to heaven for the 
rest denied me on earth. 

Bat to my story. It was now more than seven years 
since I had lived with Master Thomas Auld, in the family 
of my old master, Capt. Anthony, on the home plantation 
of Col. Lloyd. As I knew him then it was as the hus- 
band of old master's daughter ; I had now to know him 
as my master. All my lessons concerning his temper and 
disposition, and the best methods of pleasing him, were 
yet to be learned. Slaveholders, however, were not very 
ceremonious in approaching a slave, and my ignorance of 
the new material in the shape of a master was but tran- 
sient. Nor was my new mistress long in making known 


her animus. Unlike Miss Lucretia, whom I remembered 
with the tenderness which departed blessings leave, Mrs. 
Rowena Auld was cold and cruel, as her husband was 
stingy, and possessed the power to make him as cruel as 
herself, while slie could easily descend to the level of his 

As long as I had lived in Mr. Hugh Auld's family, 
whatever changes had come over them there had been 
always a bountiful supply of food; and now, for the first 
time in seven years, 1 realized the pitiless pinchings of 
hunger. So wretchedly starved were we that we were 
compelled to live at the expense of our neighbors, or to 
steal from the home larder. This was a hard thing to 
do ; but after much reflection I reasoned myself into the 
conviction that there was no other way to do, and that 
after all there was no wrong in it. Considering that my 
labor and person were the property of Master Thomas, 
and that I was deprived of the necessaries of life — nec- 
essaries obtained by my own labor — it was easy to deduce 
the right to supply myself with what was my own. It 
was simply appropriating what was my own to the use of 
my master, since the health and strength derived from 
such food were exerted in his service. To be sure, this 
was stealing, according to the law and gospel I heard 
from the pulpit; but I had begun to attach less impor- 
tance to what dropped from that quarter on such points. 
It was not always convenient to steal from Master, and ' 
the same reason why I might innocently steal from him 
did not seem to justify me in stealing from others. In 
the case of my Master it was a question of removal — the 
taking his meat out of one tub and putting it in another ; 
the ownership of the meat was not affected by the trans- 
action. At first he owned it in the tub, and last he 
owned it in me. His meat-house was not always open. 
There was a strict watch kept in that point, and the 


key was carried in Mrs. Auld's pocket. We were often- 
times severely pinched with hunger, when meat and 
bread were mouldering under lock and key. This was 
so, when she knew we were nearly half starved; and yet 
with saintly air would she kneel with her husband and 
pray each morning that a merciful God would " bless 
them in basket and store, and save them at last in His 
kingdom.'' But I proceed with my argument. 

It was necessary that the right to steal from others 
should be established; and this could only rest upon a 
wider range of generalization than that which supposed 
the right to steal from my master. It was some time 
before I arrived at this clear right. To give some idea 
of my train of reasoning, I will state the case as I laid it 
out in my mind. " I am," I thought, " not only the slave 
of Master Thomas, but I am the slave of society at large. 
Society at large has bound itself, in form and in fact, to 
assist Master Thomas in robbing me of my rightful lib- 
erty, and of the just reward of my labor; therefore, 
whatever rights I have against Master Thomas I have 
equally against those confederated with him in robbing 
me of liberty. As society has marked me out as privi- 
leged plunder, on the principle of self-preservation, I am 
justified in plundering in turn. Since each slave belongs 
to all, all must therefore belong to each." I reasoned fur- 
ther, that within the bounds of his just earnings the slave 
was fully justified in helping himself to the gold and 
silver, and the best apparel of his master, or that of 
any other slave-holder; and that such taking was not 
stealing, in any just sense of the word. 

The morality of free society could have no application 
to slave society. Slaveholders made it almost impossible 
for the slave to commit any crime, known either to the 
laws of God or to the laws of man. If he stole, he but 
took his own ; if he killed his master, he only imitated 


the heroes of the revolution. Slaveliolders I held to be 
individually and collectively responsible for all the evils 
which grew out of the horrid relation, and I believed they 
would be so held in the sight of God. To make a man a 
slave was to rob him of moral responsibility. Freedom 
of choice is the essence of all accountability; but my 
kind readers are probably less concerned about what were 
my opinions than about that which more nearly touched 
my personal experience, albeit my opinions have, in some 
sort, been the outgrowth of my experience. 

When I lived with Capt. Auld I thought him incapable 
of a noble action. His leading characteristic was intense 
selfishness. I think he was fully aware of this fact him- 
self, and often tried to conceal it. Capt. Auld was not 
born a slaveholder — not a birthright member of the slave- 
holding oligarchy. He was only a slaveholder by mar- 
riage-right ; and of all slaveholders these were by far the 
most exacting. There was in him all the love of domi- 
nation, the pride of mastery, and tlie swagger of authority ; 
but his rule lacked the vital element of consistency. He 
could be cruel ; but his methods of showing it w^ere cow- 
ardly, and evinced his meanness, rather than his spirit. 
His commands were strong, his enforcements weak. 

Slaves were not insensible to the whole-souled qualities 
of a generous, dashing slaveholder, who w^as fearless of 
consequences, and they preferred a master of this bold 
and daring kind, even with the risk of being shot down 
for impudence, to the fretful little soul who never used 
the lash but at the suggestion of a love of gain. 

Slaves too, readily distinguish between the birthright 
bearing of the original slaveholder, and the assumed 
attitudes of the accidental slaveholder; and while they 
could have no respect for either, they despised the latter 
more than the former. 

The luxury of having slaves to wait upon him was 

CAPT. auld's conveksion. 131 

new to Master Thomas, and for it he was wholly unpre- 
pared. He was a slaveholder, without the ability to hold 
or manage his slaves. Failing to command their respect, 
both himself and wife were ever on the alert lest some 
indignity should be offered him by the slaves. 

It was in the month of August, 1833, when I had 
become almost desperate under the treatment of Master 
Thomas, and entertained more strongly than ever the oft- 
repeated determination to run away, — a circumstance 
occurred which seemed to promise brighter and better 
days for us all. At a Methodist camp-meeting, held in 
the Bay side (a famous place for camp-meetings), about 
eiglit miles from St. Michaels, Master Thomas came out 
with a profession of religion. He had long been an 
object of interest to the church, and to the ministers, as 
I had seen by the repeated visits and lengthy exhorta- 
tions of the latter. He was a fish quite worth catching, 
for he had money and standing. In the community of 
St. Michaels, he was equal to the best citizen. He was 
strictly temperate, and there was little to do for him to 
give him the appearance of piety, and to make him a 
pillar of the church. Well, the camp-meeting continued 
a week ; people gathered from all parts of the country, 
and two steamboats came loaded from Baltimore. The 
ground was happily chosen ; seats were arranged ; a 
stand erected ; a rude altar fenced in, fronting the 
preacher's stand, with straw in it, making a soft kneel- 
ing place for the accommodation of mourners. This 
place would have held at least one hundred persons. In 
front and on the sides of the preacher's stand, and out- 
side the long rows of seats, rose the first class of stately 
tents, each vicing with the other in strength, neatness, 
and capacity for accommodation. Behind this first circle 
of tents was another, less imposing, which reached round 
the camp-ground to the speaker's stand. Outside this 


second class of tents were covered wagons, ox-carts, and 
vehicles of every shape and size. These served as tents 
to their owners. Outside of these, huge fires were burn- 
ing in all directions, where roasting and boiling and fry- 
ing were going on, for the benefit of those who were 
attending to their spiritual welfare within the circle. 
Behind the preacher's stand, a narrow space was marked 
out for the use of the colored people. There were no 
seats provided for this class of persons, and if the 
preachers addressed them at all, it was in an aside. 
After the preaching was over, at every service, an invita- 
tion was given to mourners to come forward into the pen; 
and in some cases, ministers went out to persuade men 
and women to come in. By one of these ministers 
Master Thomas was persuaded to go inside the pen. I 
was deeply interested in that matter, and followed ; and 
though colored people were not allowed either in the pen, 
or in front of the preacher's stand, I ventured to take my 
stand at a sort of half-way place between the blacks and 
whites, where 1 could distinctly see the movements of 
the mourners, and especially the progress of Master 
Thomas. " If he has got religion," thought I, " he will 
emancipate his slaves ; or, if he should not do so much 
as this, he will at any rate behave towards us more kindly, 
and feed us more generously than he has heretofore 
done." Appealing to my own religious experience, and 
judging my master by what was true in my own case, I 
could not regard him as soundly converted, unless some 
such good results followed his profession of religion. 
But in my expectations I was doubly disappointed : 
Master Thomas was Master Thomas still. The fruits of 
his righteousness were to show themselves in no such 
way as I had anticipated. His conversion was not to 
change his relation toward men — at any rate not toward 
BLACK men — but toward God. My faith, I confess, was 


not great. There was something in his appearance that 
in my mind cast a doubt over his conversion. Standing 
wliere I did, I could see his every movement. I watched 
very narrowly while he remained in the pen; and although 
I saw that his face was extremely red, and his hair dishev- 
eled, and though I heard him groan, and saw a stray 
tear halting on his cheek, as if inquiring, " which way 
shall I go ? "—I could not wholly confide in the genuine- 
ness of the conversiou. The hesitating behavior of that 
tear-drop, and its loneliness, distressed me, and cast a 
doubt upon the whole transaction, of which it was a part. 
But people said, '' Capt. Auld has come through," and it 
was for me to hope for the best. I was bound to do this 
in charity, for I, too, was religious, and had been in the 
church full three years, although now I was not more than 
sixteen years old. Slaveholders might sometimes have 
confidence in the piety of some of their slaves, but slaves 
seldom have confidence in the piety of their masters. 
" He can't go to heaven without blood on his skirts," was 
a settled point in the creed of every slave ; which rose 
superior to all teachings to the contrary, and stood for- 
ever as a fixed fact. The highest evidence the slave- 
holder could give the slave of his acceptance with God, 
was the emancipation of his slaves. This was proof to 
us that he was willing to give up all to God, and for the 
sake of God, and not to do this was, in our estimation, 
an evidence of hard-heartedness, and was wholly incon- 
sistent with the idea of genuine conversion. I had read 
somewhere, in the Methodist Discipline, the following 
question and answer: "Question. What shall be done 
for the extirpation of slavery?" "Answer. We declare 
that we are as much as ever convinced of the great evil 
of slavery ; therefore, no slaveholder shall be eligible to 
any ofiicial station in our church." These words sounded 
in my ears for a long time, and encouraged me to hope. 


But, as I have before said, I was doomed to disappoint- 
ment. Master Thomas seemed to be aware of my hopes 
and expectations concerning him. I have thought before 
now that he looked at me in answer to my glances, as 
much as to say, "I will teach you, young man, that 
though I have parted with my sins, I have not parted 
wath my sense. I shall hold my slaves, and go to 
heaven too." 

There was always a scarcity of good-nature about the 
man ; but now his whole countenance was soured all over 
with the seemings of piety, and he became more rigid and 
stringent in his exactions. If religion had any effect at 
all on him, it made him more cruel and hateful in all his 
ways. Do I judge him harshly ? God forbid. Capt. 
Auld made the greatest professions of piety. His house 
was literally a house of prayer. In the morning and in 
the evening loud prayers and hymns were heard there, in 
which both himself and wife joined; yet no more nor 
better meal was distributed at the quarters, no more 
attention was paid to the moral welfare of the kitchen, 
and nothing was done to make us feel that the heart of 
Master Thomas was one whit better than it was before he 
went into the little pen, opposite the preacher's stand on 
the camp-ground. Our hopes, too, founded on the disci- 
pline, soon vanished ; for he was taken into the church 
at once, and before he was out of his term of probation 
he led in class. He quite distinguished himself among 
the brethren as a fervent exhorter. His progress was 
almost as rapid as the growth of the fabled vine of Jack 
and the Bean-Stalk. No manwas more active in revivals, 
or would go more miles to assist in carrying them on, and 
in getting outsiders interested in religion. His house, 
being one of the holiest in St. Michaels, became the 
" preachers' home." They evidently liked to share his 
hospitality ; for while he starved us, he stuffed them — 


three or four of these " ambassadors " being there not 
unfrequentlj at a time — all living on the fat of the land, 
while we in the kitchen were worse than hungry. Not 
often did we get a smile of recognition from these holy- 
men. They seemed about as unconcerned about our 
getting to heaven as about our getting out of slavery. 
To this general charge 1 must make one exception — 
the Reverend George Cookman. Unlike Rev. Messrs. 
Storks, Ewry, Nicky, Humphrey, and Cooper (all of whom 
were on the St. Michaels circuit), he kindly took an inter- 
est in our temporal and spiritual welfare. Our souls and 
our bodies were alike sacred in his sight, and he really 
had a good deal of genuine anti-slavery feeling mingled 
with his colonization ideas. There was not a slave in 
our neighborhood who did not love and venerate Mr. 
Cookman. It was pretty generally believed that he had 
been instrumental in bringing one of the largest slave- 
holders in that neighborhood — Mr. Samuel Harrison — 
to emancipate all his slaves, and the general impression 
about Mr. Cookman was, that whenever he met slave- 
holders he labored faithfully with them, as a religious 
duty, to induce them to liberate their bondmen. When 
this good man was at our house, we were all sure to be 
called in to prayers in the morning ; and he was not slow 
in making inquiries as to the state of our minds, nor in 
giving us a word of exhortation and of encouragement. 
Great was the sorrow of all the slaves when this faithful 
preacher of the gospel was removed from the circuit. He 
was an eloquent preacher, and possessed what few min- 
isters, south of Mason and Dixon's line, possessed or 
dared to show ; viz., a warm and philanthropic heart. 
This Mr. Cookman was an Englishman by birth, and 
perished on board the ill-fated steamship " President," 
while on his way to England. 

But to my experience with Master Thomas after his 


conversion. In Baltimore I could occasionally get into a 
Sabbath-school, amongst the free children, and receive 
lessons with the rest ; but having learned to read and 
write already, I was more a teacher than a scholar, even 
there. When, however, I went back to the eastern shore 
and was at the house of Master Thomas, I was not 
allowed either to teach or to be taught. The whole com- 
munity, with but one single exception, among the whites, 
frowned upon everything like imparting instruction, either 
to slaves or to free colored persons. That single excep- 
tion, a pious young man named Wilson, asked me one 
day if I would like to assist him in teaching a little Sab- 
bath-school, at the house of a free colored man named 
James Mitchell. The idea to me was a delightful one, 
and I told him I would gladly devote as much of my 
Sabbaths as I could command to that most laudable work. 
Mr. Wilson soon mustered up a dozen old spelling-books 
and a few Testaments, and we commenced operations, 
with some twenty scholars in our school. Here, thought 
I, is something worth living for ; here is a chance for use- 
fulness. The first Sunday passed delightfully, and I 
spent the week after very joyously. I could not go to 
Baltimore, where I and the little company of young 
friends who had been so much to me there, and from 
whom I felt parted forever, but I could make a little Bal- 
timore here. At our second meeting I learned there were 
some objections to the existence of our school ; and sure 
enough, we had scarcely got to work — good work, simply 
teaching a few colored children how to read the gospel 
of the Son of God — when in rushed a mob, headed by 
two class-leaders, Mr. Wright Fairbanks and Mr. Garri- 
son West, and with them Master Thomas. They were 
armed with sticks and other missiles, and drove us off, 
commanding us never to meet for such a purpose again. 
One of this pious crew told me that as for me, I wanted 


to be another Nat. Turner, and if I did not look out I 
should get as many balls in me as Nat. did into him. 
Thus ended the Sabbath-school ; and the reader will not 
be surprised that this conduct, on the part of class-leaders 
and professedly holy men, did not serve to strengthen my 
religious convictions. The cloud over my St. Michaels 
home grew heavier and blacker than ever. 

It was not merely the agency of Master Tliomas in 
breaking up our Sabbath-school, that shook my confidence 
in the power of that kind of southern religion to make 
men wiser or better, but I saw in him all the cruelty and 
meanness after his conversion which he had exhibited 
before that time. His cruelty and meanness were es- 
pecially displayed in his treatment of my unfortunate 
cousin Henny, whose lameness made her a burden to 
him. I have seen him tie up this lame and maimed 
woman and whip her in a manner most brutal and shock- 
ing ; and then with blood-chilling blasphemy he would 
quote the passage of scripture, " That servant which 
knew his lord's will and prepared not himself, neither did 
according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes." 
He would keep this lacerated woman tied up by her 
wrists to a bolt in the joist, three, four, and five hours at 
a time. He would tie her up early in the morning, whip 
her with a cowskin before breakfast, leave her tied up, 
go to his store, and returning to dinner repeat the casti- 
gation, laying on the rugged lash on flesh already raw 
by repeated blows. He seemed desirous to get the poor 
girl out of existence, or at any rate off his hands. In 
proof of this, he afterwards gave her away to his sister 
Sarah (Mrs. Cline), but as in the case of Mr. Hugh, 
Henny was soon returned on his hands. Finally, upon a 
pretense that he could do nothing for her (I use his own 
words), he " set her adrift to take care of herself." Here 
was a recently converted man, holding with tight grasp 


the well-framed and able-bodied slaves left him by old 
master — the persons who in freedom could have taken 
care of themselves; j^et turning loose the only cripple 
among them, virtually to starve and die. 

No doubt, had Master Thomas been asked by some 
pious northern brother, why he held slaves ? his reply 
would have been precisely that which many another 
slaveholder has returned to the same inquiry, viz. : "I 
hold my slaves for their own good." 

The many differences springing up between Master 
Thomas and myself, owing to tlie clear perception I had 
of his character, and the boldness with which I defended 
myself against his capricious complaints, led him to de- 
clare that I was unsuited to his wants ; that my city life 
had affected me perniciously ; that in fact it had almost 
ruined me for every good purpose, and had fitted me for 
everything bad. One of my greatest faults, or offences, 
was that of letting his horse get away and go down to 
the farm which belonged to his father-in-law. The ani- 
mal had a liking for that farm with which I fully sympa- 
thized. Whenever I let it out it would go dashing 
down the road to Mr. Hamilton's as if going on a grand 
frolic. My horse gone, of course I must go after it. The 
explanation of our mutual attachment to the place is the 
same — the horse found good pasturage, and I found there 
plenty of bread. Mr. Hamilton had his faults, but starv- 
ing his slaves was not one of them. He gave food in 
abundance, and of excellent quality. In Mr. Hamilton's 
cook — Aunt Mary — I found a generous and considerate 
friend. She never allowed me to go there without giv- 
ing me bread enough to make good the deficiencies ©f a 
day or two. Master Thomas at last resolved to endure 
my behavior no longer ; he could keep neither me nor his 
horse, we liked so well to be at his father-in-law's farm. I 
had now lived with him nearly nine months, and he had 


given me a number of severe whippings, without any vis- 
ible improvement in my character or conduct, and now 
he wae resolved to put me out, as he said, " to he broken.''^ 
There was, in the Bay-side, very near the camp-ground 
where my master received his religious impressions, a 
man named Edward Covey, who enjoyed the reputation 
of being a first rate hand at breaking young negroes. 
This Covey was a poor man, a farm renter ; and his repu- 
tation of being a good hand to break in slaves was of 
immense pecuniary advantage to him, since it enabled 
him to get his farm tilled with very little expense, com- 
pared with what it would have cost him otherwise. Some 
slaveholders thought it an advantage to let Mr. Covey 
have the government of their slaves a year or two, almost 
free of charge, for the sake of the excellent training 
they had under his management. Like some horse- 
breakers noted for their skill, who ride the best horses in 
the country without expense, Mr. Covey could have under 
him the most fiery bloods of the neighborhood, for the 
simple reward of returning them to their owners well 
broken. Added to the natural fitness of Mr. Covey for the 
duties of his profession, he was said " to enjoy religion," 
and he was as strict in the cultivation of piety as he was 
in the cultivation of his farm. I was made aware of 
these traits in his character by some one who had been 
under his hand, and while I could not look forward to 
going to him with any degree of pleasure, I was glad to 
get away from St. Michaels. I believed I should get 
enough to eat at Covey's, even if I suffered in other 
respects, and this to a hungry man is not a prospect to 
be regarded with indifference. 



Journey to Covey's — Meditations by the way — Covey's house — Family 
— Awkwardness as a field hand — A cruel beating — Why given- 
Description of Covey — First attempt at driving oxen — Hair-breadth 
escape — Ox and man alike property — Hard labor more effective 
than the whip for breaking down the spirit — Cunning and trickery 
of Covey — Family worship — Shocking and indecent contempt for 
chastity — Great metal agitation — Anguish beyond description. 

THE morning of January 1, 1834, with its chilling 
wind and pinching frost, quite in harmony with the 
winter in my own mind, found me, with my little bundle 
of clothing on the end of a stick swung across my shoulder, 
on the main road bending my way towards Covey's, 
whither I had been imperiously ordered by Master Thomas. 
He had been as good as his word, and had committed 
me without reserve to the mastery of that hard man. 
Eight or ten years had now passed since I had been taken 
from my grandmother's cabin in Tuckahoe; and these years, 
for the most part, I had spent in Baltimore, where, as the 
reader has already seen, I was treated with comparative 
tenderness. I was now about to sound profounder depths 
in slave life. My new master was notorious for his fierce 
and savage disposition, and my only consolation in going 
to live with him, was the certainty of finding him precisely 
as represented by common fame. There was neither joy 
in my heart nor elasticity in my frame as I started for 
the tyrant's home. Starvation made me glad to leave 
Thomas Aald's, and the cruel lash made me dread to go 
to Covey's.' Escape, however, was impossible ; so, heavy 
and sad, I paced the seven miles which lay between his 



house and St. Michaels, thinking much by the solitary 
way of my adverse condition. But thinMng was all I 
could do. Like a fish in a net, allowed to play for a 
time, I was now drawn rapidly to the shore, secured at 
all points. " I am,'' thought I, '•' but the sport of a power 
which makes no account, either of my welfare or my 
happiness. By a law which I can comprehend, but can- 
not evade or resist, I am ruthlessly snatched from the 
hearth of a fond grandmother and hurried away to the 
home of a mysterious old master ; again I am removed 
from there to a master in Baltimore; thence am I 
snatched away to the eastern shore to be valued with the 
beasts of the field, and with them divided and set apart 
for a possessor ; then I am sent back to Baltimore, and 
by the time I have formed new attachments and have 
begun to hope that no more rude shocks shall touch me, 
a difference arises between brothers, and I am again 
broken up and sent to St. Michaels ; and now from the 
latter place I am footing my way to the home of another 
master, where I am given to understand that like a wild 
young working animal I am to be broken to the yoke of a 
bitter and life-long bondage." With thouglits and reflec- 
tions like these, I came in sight of a small wood-colored 
building, about a mile from the main road, which, from 
the description I had received at starting, I easily rec- 
ognized as my new home. The Chesapeake bay, upon 
the jutting banks of which the little wood -colored house 
was standing, white with foam raised by the heavy 
northwest wind ; Poplar Island, covered with a thick 
black pine forest, standing out amid this half ocean ; and 
Keat Point, stretching its sandy, desert-like shores out 
into the foam-crested bay, were all in sight, and served to 
deepen the wild and desolate scene. 

The good clothes I had brought with me from Balti- 
more were now worn thin, and had not been replaced ; 


for Master Thomas was as little careful to provide against 
cold as hunger. Met here by a north wind, sweeping 
through an open space of forty miles, I was glad to 
make any port, and, therefore, I speedily pressed on 
to the wood-colored house. The family consisted of 
Mr. and Mrs. Covey ; Mrs. Kemp (a broken-backed 
woman), sister to Mrs. Covey ; William Hughes, cousin 
to Mr. Covey; Caroline, the cook; Bill Smith, a hired 
man, and myself. Bill Smith, Bill Hughes, and myself 
were the working force of the farm, which comprised 
three or four hundred acres. I was now for the first 
time in my life to be a field-hand; and in my new 
employment 1 found myself even more awkward than a 
green country boy may be supposed to be upon his first 
entrance into the bewildering scenes of city life; and my 
awkwardness gave me much trouble. Strange and un- 
natural as it may seem, I had been in my new home but 
three days before Mr. Covey (my brother in the Metho- 
dist church) gave me a bitter foretaste of what was in 
reserve for me. I presume he thought that since he had 
but a single year in which to complete his work, the 
sooner he began the better. Perhaps he thought by 
coming to blows at once we should mutually understand 
better our relations to each other. But to whatever 
motive, direct or indirect, the cause may be referred, I 
had not been in his possession three whole days before he 
subjected me to a most brutal chastisement. Under his 
heavy blows blood flowed freely, and wales were left on 
my back as large as my little finger. The sores from 
this flogging continued for weeks, for they were kept 
open by the rough and coarse cloth which I wore for 
shirting. The occasion and details of this first chapter 
of my experience as a field-hand must be told, that the 
reader may see how unreasonable, as well as how cruel, 
my new Master Covey was. The whole thing I found to 


be characteristic of the man, and I was probably treated 
no worse by him than scores of lads who had previously 
been committed to him, for reasons similar to those 
which induced my master to place me with him. But 
here are the facts connected with the affair, precisely as 
they occurred. 

On one of the coldest mornings of the whole month of 
January, 1834, I was ordered at daybreak to get a load 
of wood, from a forest about two miles from the house. 
In order to perform this work, Mr. Covey gave me a pair 
of unbroken oxen, for it seemed that his breaking abilities 
had not been turned in that direction. In due form, and 
with all proper ceremony, I was introduced to this huge 
yoke of unbroken oxen, and was carefully made to un- 
derstand which was " Buck," and which was " Darby," — 
which was the "in hand," and which was the "off hand" 
ox. The master of this important ceremony was no less a 
person than Mr. Covey himself ; and the introduction was 
the first of the kind I had ever had. 

My life, hitherto, had been quite away from horned 
cattle, and I had no knowledge of the art of managing 
them. What was meant by the "in ox," as against the 
" off ox," when both were equally fastened to one cart, 
and under one yoke, I could not very easily divine ; and 
the difference implied by the names, and the peculiar 
duties of each, were alike Greek to me. Why was not 
the "off ox" called the "in ox?" Where and what is 
the reason for this distinction in names, when there is 
none in the things themselves ? After initiating me into 
the use of the "whoa," "back," "gee," "hither," — the 
entire language spoken between oxen and driver, — Mr. 
Covey took a rope about ten feet long and one inch thick, 
and placed one end of it around the horns of the "in 
hand ox," and gave the other end to me, telling me that 
if the oxen started to run away (as the scamp knew they 


would), I must hold on to the rope and stop them. I 
need not tell any one who is acquainted with either the 
strength or the disposition of an untamed ox, that 
this order was about as unreasonable as a command to 
shoulder a mad bull. I had never driven oxen before, 
and I was as awkward, as a driver, as it is possible to con- 
ceive. I could not plead my ignorance to Mr. Covey ; 
there was that in his manner which forbade any reply. 
Cold, distant, morose, with a face wearing all the marks 
of captious pride and malicious sternness, he repelled all 
advances. He was not a large man — not more than five 
feet ten inches in height, I should think; short-necked, 
round-shouldered, of quick and wiry motion, of thin and 
wolfish visage, with a pair of small, greenish-gray eyes, 
set well back under a forehead without dignity, and 
which were constantly in motion, expressing his passions 
rather than his thoughts, in sight, but denying them utter- 
ance in words. The creature presented an appearance 
altogether ferocious and sinister, disagreeable and for- 
bidding, in the extreme. When he spoke, it was from 
the corner of his mouth, and in a sort of light growl like 
a dog, when an attempt is made to take a bone from him. 
I already believed him a worse fellow than he had been 
represented to be. With his directions, and without 
stopping to question, I started for the woods, quite anx- 
ious to perform my first exploit in driving in a creditable 
manner. The distance from the house to the wood's gate 
— a full mile, I should think — was passed over with little 
difficulty: for, although the animals ran, I was fleet 
enough in the open field to keep pace with them, especially 
as they pulled me along at the end of the rope ; but on 
reaching the woods, I was speedily thrown into a distress- 
ing plight. The animals took fright, and started off 
ferociously into the woods, carrying the cart full tilt 
against trees, over stumps, and dashing from side to side 


in a manner altogether frightful. As I held the rope I 
expected every moment to be crushed between the cart 
and the huge trees, among which they were so furiously 
dashing. After running thus for several minutes, my 
oxen were finally brought to a stand by a tree, against 
which they dashed themselves with great violence, upset- 
ting the cart, and entangling themselves among sundry 
young saplings. By the shock the body of the cart was 
flung in one direction and the wheels and tongue in 
another, and all in the greatest confusion. There I was, 
all alone in a thick wood to which I was a stranger; my 
cart upset and shattered, my oxen entangled, wild and 
enraged, and I, poor soul, but a green hand to set all this 
disorder right. I knew no more of oxen than the ox- 
driver is supposed to know of wisdom. 

After standing a few minutes, surveying the damage, 
and not without a presentiment that this trouble would 
draw after it others, even more distressing, I took one 
end of the cart-body and, by an extra outlay of strength, 
I lifted it toward the axle-tree, from which it had been 
violently flung ; and after much pulling and straining, I 
succeeded in getting the body of the cart in its place. 
This was an important step out of the difficulty, and its 
performance increased my courage for the work which 
remained to be done. The cart was provided with an ax, 
a tool with which I had become pretty well acquainted in 
the ship-yard at Baltimore. With this I cut down the 
saplings by which my oxen were entangled, and again 
pursued my journey, with my heart in my mouth, lest the 
oxen should again take it into their senseless heads to 
cut up a caper. But their spree was over for the present, 
and the rascals now moved off as soberly as though 
their behavior had been natural and exemplary. On 
reaching the part of the forest where I had been the day 
before chopping wood, I filled the cart with a heavy load. 


as a security against another runaway. But the neck of 
an ox is equal in strength to iron. It defies ordinary 
burdens. Tame and docile to a proverb, when well 
trained, the ox is the most sullen and intractable of 
animals when but half broken to the yoke. I saw in my 
own situation several points of similarity with that of 
tl)e oxen. They were property ; so was I. Covey was to 
break me — I was to break them. Break and be broken 
was the order 

Half of the day was already gone and I had not yet 
turned my face homeward. It required only two days' 
experience and observation to teach me that no such 
apparent waste of time would be lightly overlooked by 
Covey. I therefore hurried toward home ; but in reach- 
ing the lane gate I met the crowning disaster of the day. 
This gate was a fair speciiQcn of southern handicraft. 
There were two huge posts eighteen inches in diameter, 
rough hewed and square, and the heavy gate was so hung 
on one of these that it opened only about half the proper 
distance. On arriving here it was necessary for me to let 
go the end of the rope on the horns of the " in-hand ox "; ' 
and now as soon as the gate was open and 1 let go of it 
to get the rope again, off went my oxen, making nothing 
of their load, full tilt ; and in so doing they caught the 
huge gate between the wheel and the cart-body, literally 
crushing it to splinters, and coming only within a few 
inches of subjecting me to a similar crushing, for I was 
just in advance of the wheel when it struck the left gate- 
post. With these two hair-breadth escapes I thought I 
could successfully explain to Mr. Covey the delay and 
avert punishment — I was not without a faint hope of 
being commended for the stern resolution which I had 
displayed in accomplishing the difficult task — a task 
which I afterwards learned even Covey himself would 
not have undertaken without first driving the oxen for 


some time in the open field, preparatory to their going to 
the woods. But in this hope I was disappointed. On 
coming to him his countenance assumed an aspect of 
rigid displeasure, and as I gave him a history of the casu- 
alties of my trip, his wolfish face, with his greenish eyes, 
became intensely ferocious. "• Go back to the woods 
again," he said, muttering something else about wasting 
time. I hastily obeyed, but I had not gone far ^n my 
w ay when I saw him coming after me. My oxen now 
behaved themselves with singular propriety, contrasting 
their present conduct to my representation of their for- 
mer antics. I almost wished, now that Covey was coming, 
they would do something in keeping with the character I 
had given them ; but no, they had already had their spree, 
and they could afford now to be extra good, readily obey- 
ing orders, and seeming to understand them quite as well 
as I did myself. On reaching the woods, my tormenter, 
who seemed all the time to be remarking to himself upon 
the good behavior of the oxen, came up to me and ordered 
me to stop the cart, accompanying the same with the 
threat that he would now teach me how to break gates 
and idle away my time when he sent me to the woods. 
Suiting the action to the words. Covey paced o£P, in his 
own wiry fashion, to a large black gum tree, the young 
shoots of which are generally used for ox-goads, they 
being exceedingly tough. Three of these goads, from 
four to six feet long, he cut off and trimmed up with his 
large jack-knife. This done, he ordered me to take off 
my clothes. To this unreasonable order I made no reply, 
but in my apparent unconsciousness and inattention to 
this command I indicated very plainly a stern determina- 
tion to do no such thing. " If you will beat me," thought 
I, " you shall do so over my clothes." After many 
threats, which made no impression upon me, he rushed 
at me with something of the savage fierceness of a wolf, 


tore off tlic few and thinly worn clothes I had on, and 
proceeded to wear out on my back the heavy goads which 
lie had cut from the gum tree. This flogging was the 
first of a series of floggings, and though very severe, it 
was less so than many which came after it, and these for 
offences far lighter than the gate-breaking. 

I remained with Mr. Covey one year (I cannot say I 
lived with him), and during the first six months that I 
was there I was whipped, either with sticks or cow-skins, 
every week. Aching bones and a sore back were my 
constant companions. Frequent as the lash was used, 
Mr. Covey thought less of it as a means of breaking 
down my spirit than that of hard and continued labor. 
He worked me steadily up to the point of my powers of 
endurance. From the dawn of day in the morning till 
the darkness was complete in the evening I was kept 
hard at work in the field or the woods. At certain sea- 
sons of the year we were all kept in the field till eleven 
and twelve o'clock at night. At these times Covey would 
attend us in the field and urge us on with words or blows, 
as it seemed best to him. He had in his life been an 
overseer, and he well understood the business of slave- 
driving. There was no deceiving him. He knew just 
what a man or boy could do, and he held both to strict 
account. When he pleased he would work himself like 
a very Turk, making everything fly before him. It was, 
however, scarcely necessary for Mr. Covey to be really 
present in the field to have his work go on industriously. 
He had the faculty of making us feel that he was 
always present. By a series of adroitly managed sur- 
prises which he practiced, I was prepared to expect him 
at any moment. His plan was never to approach the 
spot where his hands were at work in an open, manly, 
and direct manner. No thief was ever more artful in his 
devices than this man Covey. He would creep and crawl 


in ditches and gullies, hide behind stumps and bushes, 
and practice so much of the cunning of the serpent, that 
Bill Smith and I, between ourselves, never called him by 
any other name than " the snake." We fancied that in 
his eyes and his gait we could see a snakish resemblance. 
One-half of his proficiency in the art of negro-breaking 
consisted, I should think, in this species of cunning. We 
were never secure. He could see or hear us nearly all 
the time. He was to us behind every stump, tree, bush, 
and fence on the plantation. He carried this kind of 
trickery so far that he would sometimes mount his horse 
and make believe he was going to St. Michaels, and in 
thirty minutes afterwards you might find his horse tied 
in the woods, and the snake-like Covey lying flat in the 
ditcli witli his head lifted above its edge, or in a fence- 
corner, watching every movement of the slaves. I have 
known him walk up to us and give us special orders as 
to our work in advance, as if he were leaving home with 
a view to being absent several days, and before he got 
half way to the house he would avail himself of our 
inattention to his movements to turn short on his heel, 
conceal himself behind a fence-corner or a tree, and 
watch us until the going down of the sun. Mean and 
contemptible as is all this, it is in keeping with the char- 
acter which the life of a slaveholder was calculated to 
produce. There w^as no eartlily inducement in the slave's 
condition to incite him to labor faithfully. The fear of 
punishment was the sole motive of any sort of industry 
with him. Knowing this fact as the slaveholder did, and 
judging the slave by himself, he naturally concluded that 
the slave would be idle whenever the cause for this fear 
was absent. Hence all sorts of petty deceptions were 
practiced to inspire fear. 

But with Mr. Covey trickery was natural. Everything 
in the shape of learning or religion which he possessed 


was made to conform to this semi-lying propensity. He 
did not seem conscious that the practice had anything 
unmanly, base, or contemptible about it. It was a part 
of an important system with him, essential to the rela- 
tion of master and slave. I thought I saw, in his very 
religious devotions, this controlling element of his char- 
acter. A long prayer at night made up for a short 
prayer in the morning, and few men could seem more 
devotional than he when he had nothing else to do. 

Mr. Covey was not content with the cold style of family 
worship adopted in the cold latitudes, which begin and 
end with a simple prayer. No ! the voice of praise as 
well as of prayer must be heard in his house night and 
morning. At first I was called upon to bear some part 
of these exercises ; but the repeated floggings given me 
turned the whole thing into mockery. He was a poor 
singer, and mainly relied on me for raising the hymn for 
the family, and when I failed to do so he was thrown into 
much confusion. I do not think he ever abused me on 
account of these vexations. His religion was a thing 
altogether apart from his worldly concerns. He knew 
nothing of it as a holy principle directing and controlling 
his daily life, making the latter conform to the require- 
ments of the gospel. One or two facts will illustrate his 
character better than a volume of generalities. 

I have already implied that Mr. Edward Covey was a 
poor man. He was, in fact, just commencing to lay the 
foundation of his fortune, as fortune was regarded in a 
slave state. The first condition of wealth and respecta- 
bility there being the ownership of human property, every 
nerve was strained by the poor man to obtain it, with 
little regard sometimes as to the means. In pursuit of 
this object, pious as Mr. Covey was, he proved himself as 
unscrupulous and base as the worst of his neighbors. In 
the beginning he was only able — as he said — " to buy one 


slave;" and scandalous and shocking as is the fact, he 
boasted that he bought her simply " as a breeder.'' But 
the worst of this is not told in this naked statement. 
This young woman (Caroline was her name) was virtually 
compelled by Covey to abandon herself to the object for 
which he had purchased her ; and the result was the birth 
of twins at the end of the year. At this addition to his 
human stock Covey and his wife were ecstatic with joy. 
No one dreamed of reproaching the woman or finding 
fault with the hired man, Bill Smith, the father of the 
children, for Mr. Covey himself had locked the two up 
together every night, thus inviting the result. 

But I will pursue this revolting subject no farther. No 
better illustration of the unchaste, demoralizing, and de- 
basing character of slavery can be found, than is fur- 
nished in the fact that this professedly Christian slave- 
holder, amidst all his prayers and hymns, was shamelessly 
and boastfully encouraging and actually compelling, in 
.his own house, undisguised and unmitigated fornication, 
as a means of increasing his stock. It was the system of 
slavery which made this allowable, and which condemned 
the slaveholder for buying a slave woman and devoting 
her to this life, no more than for buying a cow and raising 
stock from her, and the same rules were observed, with a 
view to increasing the number and quality of the one, as 
of the other. 

If at any one time of my life, more than another, I 
was made to drink the bitterest dregs of slavery, that 
time was during the first six months of my stay with 
this man Covey. We worked all weathers. It was never 
too hot, or too cold; it could never rain, blow, snow, 
or hail too hard for us to work in the field. Work, 
work, work, was scarcely more the order of the day than 
of the night. The longest days were too short for him, 
and the shortest nights were too long for him. I was 


somewhat unmanageable at the first, but a few months of 
this discipline tamed me. Mr. Covey succeeded in break- 
ing me — in body, soul, and spirit. My natural elasticity 
was crushed ; my intellect languished ; the disposition to 
read departed, the cheerful spark that lingered about my 
eye died out ; the dark night of slavery closed in upon 
me, and behold a man transformed to a brute ! 

Sunday was my only leisure time. I spent this in a 
sort of beast-like stupor, between sleeping and waking, 
under some large tree. At times I would rise up, a flash 
of energetic freedom would dart through my soul, accom- 
panied with a faint beam of hope that flickered for a 
moment, and then vanished. I sank down again, mourn- 
ing over my wretched condition. I was sometimes 
tempted to take my life and that of Covey, but was 
prevented by a combination of hope and fear. My suffer- 
ings, as I remember them now, seem like a dream rather 
than a stern reality. 

Our house stood within a few rods of the Chesapeake 
bay, whose broad bosom was ever white with sails from 
every quarter of the habitable globe. Those beautiful 
vessels, robed in white, and so delightful to the eyes of free- 
men, were to me so many shrouded ghosts, to terrify and 
torment me with thoughts of my wretched condition. 
I have often, in the deep stillness of a summer's Sabbath, 
stood all alone upon the banks of that noble bay, and 
traced, with saddened heart and tearful eye, the countless 
number of sails moving off to the mighty ocean. The 
sight of these always affected me powerfully. My thoughts 
would compel utterance ; and there, with no audience but 
the Almighty, I would pour out my soul's complaint in 
my rude way with an apostrophe to the moving multitude 
of ships. 

" You are loosed from your moorings, and free. I am 
fast in my chains, and am a slave ! You move merrily 


before the gentle gale, and I sadly before the bloody whip. 
You are freedom's swift-winged a^ngels, that fly around 
the world ; I am confined in bonds of iron. 0, that I 
were free ! 0, that I were on one of your gallant decks, 
and under your protecting wing ! Alas ! betwixt me and 
you the turbid waters roll. Go on, go on ; 0, that I could 
also go ! Could I but swim ! If I could fly ! 0, why 
was I born a man, of whom to make a brute ! The glad 
ship is gone : she hides in the dim distance. I am left 
in the hell of unending slavery. 0, God, save me ! God, 
deliver me ! Let me be free ! — Is there any God ? Why 
am I a slave ? I will run away. I will not stand it. 
Get caught or get clear, I'll try it. I had as well die 
with ague as with fever. I have only one life to lose. I 
had as well be killed running as die standing. Only 
think of it: one hundred miles north, and I am free! 
Try it ? Yes ! God helping me, I will. It cannot bo 
that I shall live and die a slave. I will take to the water. 
This very bay shall yet bear me into freedom. The 
steamboats steer in a northeast course from North Point ; 
I will do the same ; and when I get to the head of the bay, 
I will turn my canoe adrift, and walk straight through 
Delaware into Pennsylvania. When I get there I shall 
not be required to have a pass : I will travel there without 
being disturbed. Let but the first opportunity offer, and 
come what will, I am o£P. Meanwhile I will try to bear 
the yoke. I am not the only slave in the world. Why 
should I fret? I can bear as much as any of them. 
Besides I am but a boy yet, and all boys are bound out to 
some one. It may be that my misery in slavery will only 
increase my happiness when I get free. There is a better 
day coming." 

I shall never be able to narrate half the mental expe- 
rience through which it was my lot to pass, during my 
stay at Covey's. I was completely wrecked, changed, and 

154 I AM A SLAVE. 

bewildered; goaded almost to madness at one time, and 
at another reconciling myself to my wretched condition. 
All the kindness I had received at Baltimore, all my for- 
mer hopes and aspirations for usefulness in the world, 
and even the happy moments spent in the exercises of 
religion, contrasted with my then present lot, served but 
to increase my anguish. 

I suffered bodily as well as mentally. I had neither 
sufficient time in which to eat, of to sleep, except on 
Sundays. The over-work, and the brutal chastisements 
of which I was the victim, combined with that ever- 
gnawing and soul-devouring thought — '^ I am a slave — a 
slave for life — a slave with no rational ground to hope for 
freedom " — rendered me a living embodiment of mental 
and physical wretchedness. 



Experience at Covey's summed up — First six months severer than the 
remaining six — Preliminaries to the change — Reasons for narrating 
the circumstances — Scene in the treading-yard — Author taken ill — 
Escapes to St. Michaels — The pursuit — Suffering in the woods — 
Talk with Master Thomas — His beating — Driven back to Covey's — 
The slaves never sick — Natural to expect them to feign sickness — 
Laziness of slaveholders. 

THE reader has but to repeat, in bis mind, once a 
week the scene in the woods, where Covey subjected 
me to his merciless lash, to have a true idea of my bitter 
experience, during the first six months of the breaking 
process through which he carried me. I have no heart 
to repeat each separate transaction. Such a narration 
would fill a volume much larger than the present one. 
I aim only to give the reader a truthful impression of 
my slave-life, without unnecessarily affecting him with 
harrowing details. 

As I have intimated that my hardships were much 
greater during the first six months of my stay at Covey's 
than during the remainder of the year, and as the change 
in my condition was owing to causes which may help the 
reader to a better understanding of human nature, when 
subjected to the terrible extremities of slavery, I will 
narrate the circumstances of this change, although I may 
seem thereby to applaud my own courage. 

You have, dear reader, seen me humbled, degraded, 
broken down, enslaved, and brutalized ; and you under- 
stand how it was done ; now let us see the converse of 
all this, and how it was brought about ; and this will take 
us through the year 1834. (155) 


On one of the hottest days of the month of August of 
the year just mentioned, had the reader been passing 
through Covey's farm, he might have seen me at work 
in what was called the "treading-yard" — a yard upon 
wdiich wheat was trodden out from the straw by the 
horses' feet. I was there at work feeding the "fan," or 
rather bringing wheat to the fan, while Bill Smith was 
feeding. Our force consisted of Bill Hughes, Bill Smith, 
and a slave by the name of Eli, the latter having been 
hired for the occasion. The work was simple, and 
required strength and activity, rather than any skill or 
intelligence ; and yet to one entirely unused to such 
work, it came very hard. The heat was intense and 
overpowering, and there was much hurry to get the wheat 
trodden out that day, through the fan ; since if that work 
Avas done an hour before sundown, the hands would have, 
according to a promise of Covey, that hour added to their 
night's rest. I was not behind any of them in the wish 
to complete the day's work before sundown, and hence I 
struggled with all my might to get it forward. The 
promise of one hour's repose on a week day was sufficient 
to quicken my pace, and to spur me on to extra endeavor. 
Besides, we had all planned to go fishing, and I certainly 
wished to have a hand in that. But I was disappointed, 
and the day turned out to be one of the bitterest I ever 
experienced. About three o'clock, while the sun was 
pouring down his burning rays, and not a breeze was 
stirring, I broke down ; my strength failed me ; I was 
seized with a violent aching of the head, attended with 
extreme dizziness, and trembling in every limb. Finding 
what was coming, and feeling it would never do to stop 
work, I nerved myself up, and staggered on, until I fell 
by the side of the wheat fan, with a feeling that the earth 
had fallen in upon me. This brought the entire work to 
a dead stand. There was work for four : each one had 


his part to perform, and each part depended on the other, 
so that when one stopped, all were compelled to stop. 
Covey, who had become my dread, was at the house, 
about a hundred yards from where I was fanning, and 
instantly, upon hearing the fan stop, he came down to 
the treading-yard to inquire into the cause of the stop- 
ping. Bill Smith told him I was sick, and that I was 
unable longer to bring wheat to the fan. 

I had by this time crawled away under the side of a 
post-and-rail fence in the shade, and was exceedingly 
ill. The intense heat of the sun, the heavy dust rising 
from the fan, tlie stooping to take up the wheat from the 
yard, together with the hurrying to get through, had 
caused a rush of blood to my head. In this condition 
Covey, finding out where I was, came to me ; and after 
standing over me a while he asked what the matter was. 
I told him as well as I could, for it was with difficulty 
that I could speak. He gave me a savage kick in the 
side which jarred my whole frame, and commanded me 
to get up. The monster had obtained complete control 
over me, and if he had commanded me to do any possible 
thing I should, in my then state of mind, have endeav- 
ored to comply. I made an effort to rise, but fell back 
in the attempt before gaining my feet. He gave me 
another heavy kick, and again told me to rise. I again 
tried, and succeeded in standing up ; but upon stooping 
to get the tub with which I was feeding the fan I again 
staggered and fell to the ground ; and I must have so 
fallen had I been sure that a hundred bullets would have 
pierced me through as the consequence. While down in 
this sad condition, and perfectly helpless, the merciless 
negro-breaker took up the hickory slab with which 
Hughes had been striking off the wheat to a level with 
the sides of the half-bushel measure (a very hard weapon), 
and with the edge of it he dealt me a heavy blow on my 


head which made a large gash, and caused the blood to 
run freely, saying at the same time, " If you have got the 
headache I'll cure you." This done, he ordered me 
again to rise, but I made no effort to do so, for I had now 
made up my mind that it was useless, and the heartless 
villain might do his worst, he could but kill me and 
that might put me out of my misery. Finding me unable 
to rise, or rather despairing of my doing so. Covey left 
me, with a view to getting on with the work without 
me. I was bleeding very freely, and my face was soon 
covered with my warm blood. Cruel and merciless as was 
the motive that dealt that blow, the wound was a fortu- 
nate one for me. Bleedino; was never more efficacious. 
The pain in my head speedily abated, and I was soon 
able to rise. Covey had, as I have said, left me to my 
fate, and the question was, shall I return to my work, or 
shall I find my way to St. Michaels and make Capt. 
Auld acquainted with the atrocious cruelty of his brother 
Covey, and beseech him to get me another master ? 
Eemembering the object he had in view in placing me 
under the management of Covey, and further, his cruel 
treatment of my poor crippled cousin Henny, and his 
meanness in the matter of feeding and clothing his slaves, 
there was little ground to hope for a favorable reception 
at the hands of Capt. Thomas Auld. Nevertheless, I 
resolved to go straight to him, thinking that, if not ani- 
mated by motives of humanity, he might be induced to 
interfere on my behalf from selfish considerations. "He 
cannot," I thought, "allow his property to be thus bruised 
and battered, marred and defaced, and I will go to him 
about the matter." In order to get to St. Michaels by 
the most favorable and direct road I must walk seven 
miles, and this, in my sad condition, was no easy per- 
formance. I had already lost much blood, I was 
exhausted by over-exertion, my sides were sore from the 


heavy blows planted there by the stout boots of Mr. 
Covey, and I was in every way in an unfavorable plight 
for the journey. I however watched my chance while, 
the cruel and cunning Covey was looking in an opposite 
direction, and started off across the field for St. Michaels. 
This was a daring step. If it failed it would only exas- 
perate Covey, and increase the rigors of my bondage 
during the remainder of my term of service under him ; 
but the step was taken, and I must go forward. I 
succeeded in getting nearly half way across the broad 
field toward the woods, when Covey observed me. I 
was still bleeding, and the exertion of running had started 
the blood afresh. "Come hack! Come hackP^ he vocifera- 
ted, with threats of what he would do if I did not return 
instantly. But disregarding his calls and threats, I 
pressed on toward the woods as fast as my feeble state 
would allow. Seeing no signs of my stopping he caused 
his horse to be brought out and saddled, as if he intended 
to pursue me. The race was now to be an unequal one, 
and thinking I might be overhauled by him if I kept the 
main road, I walked nearly the whole distance in the 
woods, keeping far enough from the road to avoid detec- 
tion and pursuit. But I had not gone far before my 
little strength again failed me, and I was obliged to lie 
down. The blood was still oozing from the wound in my 
head, and for a time I suffered more than I can describe. 
There I was in the deep woods, sick and emaciated, pur- 
sued by a wretch whose character for revolting cruelty 
beggars all opprobrious speech, bleeding and almost blood- 
less. I was not without the fear of bleeding to death. 
The thought of dying in the woods all alone, and of being 
torn in pieces by the buzzards, had not yet been rendered 
tolerable by my many troubles and hardships, and I was 
glad when the shade of the trees and the cool evening 
breeze combined with my matted hair to stop the flow of 


blood. After lying there about three-quarters of an hour 
brooding over the singular and mournful lot to which I 
was doomed, my mind passing over the whole scale or 
circle of belief and unbelief, from faith in the overruling 
Providence of God, to the blackest atheism, I again 
took up my journey toward St. Michaels, more weary and 
sad than on the morning when I left Thomas Auld's for 
the home of Covey. I was bare-footed, bare-headed, and 
in my shirt-sleeves. The way was through briers and 
bogs, and I tore my feet often during the journey. I was 
full five hours in going the seven or eight miles ; partly 
because of the difficulties of the way, and partly because 
of the feebleness induced by my illness, bruises, and loss 
of blood. 

On gaining my master's store, I presented an appear- 
ance of wretchedness and woe calculated to move any but 
a heart of stone. From the crown of my head to the sole 
of my feet, there were marks of blood. My hair was all 
clotted with dust and blood, and the back of my shirt was 
literally stiff with the same. Briers and thorns had scarred 
and torn my feet and legs. Had I escaped from a den of 
tigers, I could not have looked worse. In this plight I 
appeared before my professedly Christian master, humbly 
to invoke the interposition of his power and authority, to 
protect me from further abuse and violence. During the 
latter part of my tedious journey I had begun to hope 
that my master would now show himself in a nobler light 
than I had before seen him. But I was disappointed. I 
had jumped from a sinking ship into the sea; I had fled 
from a tiger to something worse. I told him all the cir- 
cumstances, as well as I could : how I was endeavoring 
to please Covey ; how hard I was at work in the present 
instance ; how unwillingly I sank down under the heat, 
toil, and pain ; the brutal manner in which Covey had 
kicked me in the side, the gash cut in my head; my hesi- 


tation about troubling him (Capt. Auld) with complaints ; 
but that now I felt it would not be best longer to conceal 
from him the outrages committed on me from time to 
time. At first Master Thomas seemed somewhat affected 
by the story of my wrongs, but he soon repressed what- 
ever feeling he may have had, and became as cold and 
hard as iron. It was impossible, at first ^ as I stood before 
him, to seem indifferent. I distinctly saw his human 
nature asserting its conviction against the slave system, 
which made cases like mine i^ossihle; but, as I have said, 
humanity fell before the systematic tyranny of slavery. 
He first walked the floor, apparently much agitated by my 
story, and the spectacle I presented ; but soon it was his 
turn to talk. He began moderately by finding excuses 
for Covey, and ended with a full justification of him, and 
a passionate condemnation of me. He had no doubt I 
deserved the flogging. He did not believe I was sick ; I 
was only endeavoring to get rid of work. My dizziness 
was laziness, and Covey did right to flog me as he had 
done. After thus fairly annihilating me, and arousing 
himself by his eloquence, he fiercely demanded what I 
wished him to do in the case ! With such a knock-down 
to all my hopes, and feeling as I did my entire subjection 
to his power, I had very little heart to reply. I must not 
assert my innocence of the allegations he had piled up 
against me, for that would be impudence. The guilt of 
a slave was always and everywhere presumed, and the 
innocence of the slaveholder, or employer, was always 
asserted. The word of the slave against this presumption 
was generally treated as impudence, worthy of punisli- 
]naent. " Do you dare to contradict me, you rascal ? " was 
a final silencer of counter-statements from the lips of a 
slave. Calming down a little, in view of my silence and 
hesitation, and perhaps a little touched at my forlorn and 
miserable appearance, he inquired again, what I wanted 


liim to do ? Tims invited a second time, I told him I 
wished him to allow me to get a new home, and to find a 
new master; that as sure as I went back to live again 
with Mr. Covey, I should be killed by him ; that he Avould 
never forgive my coming home with complaints; that 
since I had lived with him he had almost crushed my 
spirit, and I believed he would ruin me for future service, 
and that my life was not safe in his hands. This Master 
Thomas (iny brother in the church) regarded as " non- 
sense." There was no danger that Mr. Covey would kill 
me; he was a good man, industrious and religious; and 
he would not think of removing me from that home; 
" besides," said he — and this I found was the most dis- 
tressing thought of all to him — " if you should leave 
Covey now that your year is but half expired, I should 
lose your wages for the entire year. You belong to Mr. 
Covey for one year, and you must go bach to him, come 
what will; and you must not trouble me with any more 
stories; and if you don't go immediately home, I'll get 
hold of you myself." This was just what I expected 
when I found he had prejudged the case against me. 
" But, sir," I said, " I am sick and tired, and I cannot get 
home to-night." At this he somewhat relented, and 
finally allowed me to stay the night, but said I must be 
off early in the morning, and concluded his directions by 
making me swallow a huge dose of Epsom salts, which 
was about the only medicine ever administered to slaves. 
It was quite natural for Master Thomas to presume I 
was feigning sickness to escape work, for he probably 
thought that were he in the place of a slave, with no 
wages for his work, no praise for well-doing, no motive 
for toil but the lash, he would try every possible scheme 
by which to escape labor. I say I have no doubt of this ; 
the reason is, that there were not, under the whole heav- 
ens, a set of men who cultivated such a dread of labor as 


did the slaveholders. The charge of laziness against the 
slaves was ever on their lips, and was the standing 
apology for every species of cruelty and brutality. These 
men did indeed literally " bind heavy burdens, grievous 
to be borne, and laid them upon men's shoulders, but they 
themselves would not move them with one of their 



A sleepless night — Return to Covey's — Punished by him — The chase 
defeated — Vengeance postponed — Musings in the woods — The al- 
ternative — Deplorable spectacle — Night in the woods — Expected 
attack — Accosted by Sandy — A friend, not a master — Sandy's hos- 
pitality — The ash-cake supper — Interview with Sandy — His advice 
— Sandy a conjuror as well as a Christian — The magic root — 
Strange meeting with Covey — His manner — Covey's Sunday face — 
Author's defensive resolve — The fight — The victory, and its results. 

SLEEP does not always come to the relief of the weary 
in body, and broken in spirit ; especially is it so when 
past troubles only foreshadow coming disasters. My last 
hope had been extinguished. My master, who I did not 
venture to hope would protect me as a man, had now 
refused to protect me as his property^ and had cast me 
back, covered with reproaches and bruises, into the hands 
of one who was a stranger to that mercy which is the 
soul of the religion he professed. May the reader never 
know what it is to spend such a night as was that to me, 
which heralded my return to the den of horrors from 
which I had made a temporary escape. 

I remained — sleep I did not — all night at St. Michaels, 
and in the morning (Saturday) I started off, obedient to 
the order of Master Thomas, feeling that I had no friend 
on earth, and doubting if I had one in heaven. I reached 
Covey's about nine o'clock ; and just as I stepped into 
the field, before I had reached the house, true to his 
snakish habits. Covey darted out at me from a fence 
corner, in which he had secreted himself for the purpose 
of securing me. He was provided with a cowskin and a 



rope, and he evidently intended to tie me up, and wreak 
his vengeance on me to the fullest extent. I should have 
been an easy prey had he succeeded in getting his hands 
upon me, for I had taken no refreshment since noon 
on Friday ; and this, with the other trying circumstances, 
had greatly reduced my strength. I, however, darted 
back into the woods before the ferocious hound could 
reach me, and buried myself in a thicket, where he lost 
sight of me. The cornfield afforded me shelter in get- 
ting to the woods. But for the tall corn. Covey would 
have overtaken me, and made me his captive. He was 
much chagrined that he did not, p;nd gave up the chase 
very reluctantly, as I could see by Ills angry movements, 
as he returned to the house. 

Well, now I am clear of Covey\and his lash for a little 
time. I am in the wood, buried in its somber gloom, 
and hushed in its solemn silence ; hidden from all human 
eyes, shut in with nature, and with nature's God, and 
absent from all human contrivances. Here was a good 
place to pray ; to pray for help, for deliverance — a prayer 
I had often made before. But how could I pray ? Covey 
could pray — Capt. Auld could pray. I would fain pray ; 
but doubts arising, partly from my neglect of the means 
of grace, and partly from the sham religion which every- 
where prevailed, cast in my mind a doubt upon all relig- 
ion, and led me to the conviction that prayers were una- 
vailing and delusive. 

Life in itself had almost become burdensome to me. All 
my outward relations were against me ; I must stay here 
and starve, or go home to Covey's and have my flesh torn 
to pieces and my spirit humbled under the cruel lash of 
Covey. These were the alternatives before me. The 
day was long and irksome. I was weak from the toils of 
the previous day, and from want of food and sleep, and I 
had been so little concerned about my appearance that I 


had not yet washed the blood from my garments. I was 
an object of horror, even to myself. Life in Baltimore, 
when most oppressive, was a paradise to this. What 
had I done, what had my parents done, that such a life 
as this should be mine? That day, in the woods, I would 
have exchanged my manhood for the brutehood of an ox. 

Night came. I was still in the woods, and still unre- 
solved what to do. Hunger had not yet pinched me to 
the point of going home, and I laid myself down in the 
leaves to rest ; for I had been watching for hunters all 
day, but not being molested by them during the day, I 
expected no disturbance from them during the night. I 
had come to the conclusion that Covey relied upon hun- 
ger to drive me home, and in this I was quite correct, 
for he made no effort to catch me after the morning. 

During the night I heard the step of a man in the 
woods. He was coming toward the place where I lay. A 
person lying still has the advantage over one walking in 
the woods in the day-time, and this advantage is much 
greater at night. I was not able to engage in a physical 
struggle, and I had recourse to the common resort of the 
weak. I hid myself in the leaves to prevent discovery. 
But as the night rambler in the woods drew nearer I 
found him to be a friend^ not an enemy, a slave of Mr. 
William Groomes of Easton, a kind-hearted fellow named 
"Sandy." Sandy I'ved with Mr. Kemp that year, about 
four miles from St. Michaels. He, like myseK, had been 
hired out that year, but unlike myself had not been hired 
out to be broken. He was the husband of a free woman 
who lived in the lower part of "Poppie Neck," and he 
was now on his way through the woods to see her and to 
spend the Sabbath with her. 

As soon as I had ascertained that the disturber of my 
solitude was not an enemy, but the good-hearted Sandy 
— a man as famous among the slaves of the neighbor- 


hood for his good nature as for his good sense — I came 
out from my hiding-place and made myself known to him. 
I explained the circumstances of the past two days which 
had driven me to the woods, and he deeply compassion- 
ated my distress. It was a bold thing for him to shelter 
me, and I could not ask him to do so, for had I been 
found in his hut he would have suffered the penalty of 
thirty-nine lashes on his bare back, if not something 
worse. But Sandy was too generous to permit the fear 
of punishment to prevent his relieving a brother bond- 
man from hunger and exposure, and therefore, on his 
own motion, 1 accompanied him home to his wife — for 
the house and lot w^ere hers, as she was a free woman. 
It was about midnight, but his wife was called up, a fire 
was made, some Indian meal was soon mixed with salt 
and water, and an ash-cake was baked in a hurry, to 
relieve my hunger. Sandy's wife was not behind him in 
kindness ; both seemed to esteem it a privilege to succor 
me, for although I was hated by Covey and by my master 
I was loved by the colored people, because they thought 
I was hated for my knowledge, and persecuted because I 
was feared. I was the only slave in that region who 
could read or write. There had been one other man, 
belonging to Mr. Hugh Hamilton, who could read, but he, 
poor fellow, had, shortly after coming into the neighbor- 
hood, been sold off to the far south. I saw him ironed, 
in the cart, to be carried to Easton for sale, pinioned like 
a yearling for the slaughter. My knowledge was now 
the pride of my brother slaves, and no doubt Sandy felt 
something of the general interest in me on that account. 
The supper was soon ready, and though I have since 
feasted with honorables, lord mayors, and aldermen over 
the sea, my supper on ash-cake and cold water, with 
Sandy, was the meal of all my life most sweet to my 
taste, and now most vivid to my memory. 


Supper over, Sandy and I went into a discussion of 
what was possible for me, under the perils and hardships 
which overshadowed my path. The question was, must 
I go back to Covey, or must I attempt to run away ? 
Upon a careful survey the latter was found to be impossi- 
ble ; for I was on a narrow neck of land, every avenue from 
which would bring me in sight of pursuers. There was 
Chesapeake Bay to the right, and "Pot-pie" river to the 
left, and St. Michaels and its neighborhood occupied the 
only space through which there was any retreat. 

I found Sandy an old adviser. He was not only a 
religious man, but he professed to believe in a system for 
which I have no name. He was a genuine African, and 
had inherited some of the so-called magical powers said 
to be possessed by the eastern nations. He told me that 
he could help me ; that in those very woods there was an 
herb which in the morning might be found, possessing 
all the powers required for my protection (I put his 
words in my own language), and that if I would take his 
advice he would procure me the root of the herb of which 
he spoke. He told me, further, that if I would take that 
root and wear it on my right side it would be impossible 
for Covey to strike me a blow ; that with this root about 
my person no white man could whip me. He said he 
had carried it for years, and that he had fully tested its 
virtues. He had never received a blow from a slave- 
holder since he carried it, and he never expected to 
receive one, for he meant always to carry that root for 
protection. He knew Covey well, for Mrs. Covey was 
the daughter of Mrs. Kemp ; and he (Sandy) had heard 
of the barbarous treatment to which I had been subjected, 
and he wanted to do something for me. 

Now all this talk about the root was to me very absurd 
and ridiculous, if not positively sinful. I at first rejected 
the idea that the simple carrying a root on my right side 


(a root, by the way, over which I walked every time I 
went into the woods) could possess any such magic power 
as he ascribed to it, and I was, therefore, not disposed to 
cumber my pocket with it. I had a positive aversion to 
all pretenders to '-'divination.'''' It was beneath one of 
my intelligence to countenance such dealings with the 
devil as this power implied. But with all my learning — 
it was really precious little — Sandy was more than a match 
for me. "My book-learning," he said, "had not kept 
Covey off me" (a powerful argument just then), and he 
entreated me, with flashing eyes, to try this. If it did 
me no good it could do me no harm, and it would cost 
me nothing any way. Sandy was so earnest and so con- 
fident of the good qualities of this weed that, to please 
him, I was induced to take it. He had been to me the 
good Samaritan, and had, almost providentially, found 
me and helped me when I could not help myself ; how 
did I know but that the hand of the Lord was in it ? 
With thoughts of this sort I took the roots from Sandy 
and put them in my right-hand pocket. 

This was of course Sunday morning. Sandy now 
urged me to go home with all speed, and to walk up 
bravely to the house, as though nothing had happened. 
I saw in Sandy too deep an insight into human nature, 
with all his superstition, not to have some respect for his 
advice ; and perhaps, too, a slight gleam or shadow of his 
superstition had fallen on me. At any rate, I started off 
toward Covey's, as directed. Having, the previous night, 
poured my griefs into Sandy's ears and enlisted him in 
my behalf, having made his wife a sharer in my sorrows, 
and having also become well refreshed by sleep and food, 
I moved off quite courageously toward the dreaded 
Covey's. Singularly enough, just as I entered the yard- 
gate I met him and his wife, dressed in their Sunday 
best, looking as smiling as angels, on their way to church. 


His manner perfectly astonished me. There was some- 
thing really benignant in his countenance. He spoke to 
me as never before, told me that the pigs had got into the 
lot and he wished me to go to drive them out ; inquired 
how I was. and seemed an altered man. This extraordi- 
nary conduct really made me begin to think that Sandy's 
herb had more virtue in it than I, in my pride, had been 
willing to allow, and had the day been other than Sunday 
I should have attributed Covey's altered manner solely to 
the power of the root. 1 suspected, however, that the 
jSahhath, not the root, was the real explanation of the 
change. His religion hindered him from breaking the 
Sabbath, but not from breaking my skin on any other day 
than Sunday. He had more respect for the day than for 
the man for whom the day was mercifully given ; for 
while he would cut and slash my body during the week, 
he would on Sunday teach me the value of my soul, and 
the way of life and salvation by Jesus Christ. 

All went well with me till Monday morning ; and then, 
whether the root had lost its virtue, or whether my tor- 
mentor had gone deeper into the black art than I had (as 
was sometimes said of him), or whether he had obtained 
a special indulgence for his faithful Sunday's worship, it 
is not necessary for me to know or to inform the reader ; 
but this much I may say, the pious and benignant smile 
which graced the face of Covey on Sunday wholly disap- 
peared on Monday. 

Long before daylight I was called up to go feed, rub, 
and curry the horses. I obeyed the call, as I should have 
done had it been made at an earlier hour, for I had 
brought my mind to a firm resolve during that Sunday's 
reflection to obey every order, however unreasonable, if it 
were possible, and if Mr. Covey should then undertake to 
beat me to defend and protect myself to the best of my 
ability. My religious views on the subject of resisting 


my master had suffered a serious shock by the savage 
persecution to which I had been subjected, and my hands 
were no longer tied by my religion. Master Thomas's indif- 
ference had severed the last link. I had backslidden 
from this point in the slaves' religious creed, and I soon 
had occasion to make my fallen state known to my Sun- 
day-pious brother. Covey. 

While I w^as obeying his order to feed and get the 
horses ready for the field, and when I was in the act of 
going up the stable-loft, for the purpose of throwing down 
some blades, Covey sneaked into the stable, in his pecul- 
iar way, and seizing me suddenly by the leg, he brought 
me to the stable-floor, giving my newly-mended body a 
terrible jar. I now forgot all about my roots ^ and remem- 
bered my pledge to stand up in my own defense. The 
brute was skillfully endeavoring to get a slip-knot on my 
legs, before I could draw up my feet. As soon as I found 
what he was up to, I gave a sudden spring (my two days' 
rest had been of much service to me) and by that means, 
no doubt, he was able to bring me to the floor so heavily. 
He was defeated in his plan of tying me. While down, 
he seemed to think he had me very securely in his power. 
He little thought he was — as the rowdies say — " in " 
for a "rough and tumble" fight; but such was the fact. 
Whence came the daring spirit necessary to grapple with 
a man who, eight-and-forty hours before, could, with his 
slightest word, have made me tremble like a leaf in a 
storm, I do not know ; at any rate, I was resolved to fight, 
and what was better still, I actually was hard at it. The 
fighting madness had come upon me, and I found my 
strong fingers firmly attached to the throat of the tyrant, 
as heedless of consequences, at the moment, as if we stood 
as equals before the law. The very color of the man was 
forgotten. I felt supple as a cat, and was ready for him 
at every turn. Every blow of his was parried, though I 


dealt no blows in return. I was strictly on the defensive, 
preventing him from injuring me, rather than trying to 
injure him. I flung him on the ground several times 
when he meant to have hurled me there. I held him so 
firmly by the throat that his blood followed my nails. He 
held me, and I held him. 

All was fair thus far, and the contest was about equal. 
My resistance was entirely unexpected, and Covey was 
taken all aback by it, and he trembled in every limb. 
''Are you going to resist, you scoundrel?" said he. To 
which I returned a polite " Yes, sir,^^ steadily gazing my 
interrogator in the eye, to meet the first approach or 
dawning of the blow which I expected my answer would 
call forth. But the conflict did not long remain equal. 
Covey soon cried lustily for help ; not that I was obtain- 
ing any marked advantage over him, or was injuring him, 
but because he was gaining none over me, and was not 
able, single-handed, to conquer me. He called for his 
cousin Hughes to come to his assistance, and now the 
scene was changed. I was compelled to give blows, as 
well as to parry them, and since I was in any case to 
suffer for resistance, I felt (as the musty proverb goes) 
that I " might as well be hanged for an old sheep as a 
lamb." I was still defensive toward Covey, but aggressive 
toward Hughes, on whom, at his first approach, I dealt a 
blow which fairly sickened him. He went off, bending 
over with pain, and manifesting no disposition to come 
again within my reach. The poor fellow was in the act 
of trying to catch and tie my right hand, and while flat- 
tering himself with success, I gave him the kick which 
sent him staggering away in pain, at the same time that I 
held Covey with a firm hand. 

Taken completely by surprise, Covey seemed to have 
lost his usual strength and coolness. He was frightened, 
and stood puffing and blowing, seemingly unable to com- 


maiid words or blows. When he saw that Hughes was 
standing half bent with pain, his courage quite gone, the 
cowardly tyrant asked if I " meant to persist in my resist- 
ance." I told him I "did mean to resist, come what 
might; that I had been treated like a brute during the 
last six months, and that I should stand it no longer." 
With that he gave me a shake, and attempted to drag me 
toward a stick of wood that was lying just outside the 
stable-door. He meant to knock me down with it ; but, 
just as he leaned over to get the stick, I seized him with 
both hands, by the collar, and with a vigorous and sudden 
snatch, I brought my assailant harmlessly, his full length, 
on the not over-clean ground, for we were now in the cow- 
yard. He had selected the place for the fight, and it was 
but right that he should have all the advantages of his 
own selection. 

By this time Bill, the hired man, came home. He had 
been to Mr. Helmsley's to spend Sunday with his nominal 
wife. Covey and I had been at skirmishing from before 
daybreak till now, and the sun was now shooting his 
beams almost over the eastern woods, and we were still 
at it. I could not see where the matter was to terminate. 
He evidently was afraid to let me go, lest I should again 
make off to the woods, otherwise he would probably have 
obtained arms from the house to frighten me. Holding 
me, he called upon Bill to assist him. The scene here 
had something comic about it. Bill, who knew precisely 
what Covey wished him to do, affected ignorance, and 
pretended he did not know what to do. " What shall I 
do. Master Covey ? " said Bill. " Take hold of him ! — 
take hold of him ! " said Covey. With a toss of his head, 
peculiar to Bill, he said : "' Indeed, Master Covey, I want 
to go to work." " This is your worh^^ said Covey ; " take 
hold of him." Bill replied, with spirit : " My master hired 
me here to work, and not to help you whip Frederick." 


It was my turn to speak. " Bill," said I, " don't put your 
hands on me." To which he replied : " My God, Freder- 
ick, I ain't goin' to tech ye " ; and Bill walked off, leaving 
Covey and myself to settle our differences as best we 

But my present advantage was threatened when I saw 
Caroline (the slave woman of Covey) coming to the cow- 
yard to milk, for she was a powerful woman, and could 
have mastered me easily, exhausted as I was. 

As soon as she came near, Covey attempted to rally 
her to his aid. Strangely and fortunately, Caroline was 
in no humor to take a hand in any such sport. We were 
all in open rebellion that morning. Caroline answered 
the command of her master to " take hold of me," pre- 
cisely as Bill had done, but in her 'it was at far greater 
peril, for she was tlie slave of Covey, and he could do 
what he pleased with her. It was not so with Bill, and 
Bill knew it. Samuel Harris, to whom Bill belonged, 
did not allow his slaves to be beaten unless they were 
guilty of some crime which the law would punish. But 
poor Caroline, like myself, was at the mercy of the merci- 
less Covey, nor did she escape the dire effects of her 
refusal : he gave her several sharp blows. 

At length (two hours had elapsed) the contest was 
given over. Letting go of me, puffing and blowing at a 
great rate, Covey said : "Now, you scoundrel, go to your 
work ; I would not have whipped you half so hard if you 
liad not resisted." The fact was, he had not whipped 
me at all. He had not, in all the scuffle, drawn a single 
drop of blood from me. I had drawn blood from him, and 
should even without this satisfaction have been victo- 
rious, because my aim had not been to injure him, but to 
prevent his injuring me. 

During the whole six months I lived with Covey after 
this transaction, he never again laid the weight of . his 


finger on me in anger. He would occasionally say he did 
not want to hav^e to get hold of me again — a declaration 
which I had no difficulty in believing ; and I had a secret 
feeling which answered, " You had better not wish to 
get hold of me again, for you will be likely to come off 
worse in a second fight than you did in the first." 

Well, my dear reader, this battle with Mr. Covey, 
undignified as it was, and as I fear my narration of it is, 
was tlie turning-point in my " life as a slave." It rekin- 
dled in my breast the smouldering embers of liberty ; it 
brought up my Baltimore dreams, and revived a sense of 
my own manhood. I was a changed being after that 
fight. I was nothing before ; I was a man now. It 
recalled to life my crashed self-respect, and my self-con- 
fidence, and inspired me with a renewed determination to 
be a free man. A man without force is without the 
essential dignity of humanity. Human nature is so con- 
stituted, that it cannot honor a helpless man, though it 
c^npity him, and even this it cannot do long if signs of 
power do not arise. 

He only can understand the effect of this combat on 
my spirit, who has himself incurred something, hazarded 
something, in repelling the unjust and cruel aggressions 
of a tyrant. Covey was a tyrant and a cowardly one 
withal. After resisting him, I felt as I never felt before. 
It was a resurrection from the dark and pestiferous tomb 
of slavery, to the heaven of comparative freedom. I 
was no longer a servile coward, trembling under the 
frown of a brother worm of the dust, but my long-cowed 
spirit was roused to an attitude of independence. I had 
reached the point at which I was not afraid to die. This 
spirit made me a freeman in fact, though I still remained 
a slave in form. When a slave cannot be flogged, he is 
more than half free. He has a domain as broad as his 
own manly heart to defend, and he is really "a power on 


earth.'* From this time until my escape from slavery, I 
was never fairly whipped. Several attempts were made, 
but they were always unsuccessful. Bruised I did get, 
but the instance I have described was the end of the bru- 
tification to which slavery had subjected me. 

The reader may like to know why, after 1 had so griev- 
ously offended Mr. Covey, he did not have me taken in 
hand by the authorities ; indeed, why the law of Mary- 
land, which assigned hanging to the slave who resisted 
his master, was not put in force against me, at any rate 
why I was not taken up, as was usual in such cases, and 
publicly whipped as an example to other slaves, and as a 
means of deterring me from committing the same offence 
again. I confess that the easy manner in which I got 
off was always a surprise to me, and even now I cannot 
fully explain the cause, though the probability is that 
Covey was ashamed to have it known that he had been 
mastered by a boy of sixteen. He enjoyed the unbounded 
and very valuable reputation of being a first-rate overseer 
and negro-breaker, and by means of this reputation he 
was able to procure his hands at very trifling compensa- 
tion and with very great ease. His interest and his 
pride would mutually suggest the wisdom of passing the 
matter by in silence. The story that he had undertaken 
to whip a lad and had been resisted, would of itself be 
damaging to him in the estimation of slaveholders. 

It is perhaps not altogether creditable to my natural 
temper that after this conflict with Mr. Covey I did, at 
times, purposely aim to provoke him to an attack, by 
refusing to keep with the other hands in the field ; but I 
could never bully him to another battle. I was deter- 
mined on doing him serious damage if he ever again 
attempted to lay violent hands on me. 

''Hereditary bondmen, know ye not 

Wlio would be free, themselves must strike the blow ? " 



Change of masters — Benefits derived by change — Fame of the fight 
with Covey — Reckless unconcern — Author's abhorrence of slavery 
— Ability to read a cause of prejudice — The holidays — How spent — 
Sharp hit at slavery — Effects of holidays — Difference between Co- 
vey and Freeland — An irreligious master preferred to a religious 
one — Hard life at Covey's useful to the author — Improved condition 
does not bring contentment — Congenial society at Freeland's — Au- 
thor's Sabbath-school — Secrecy necessary — Affectionate relations of 
tutor and pupils — Confidence and friendship among slaves — Slavery 
the inviter of vengeance. 

MY term of service with Edward Covey expired on 
Christmas day, 1834. I gladly-enough left him, 
although he was by this time as gentle as a lamb. My 
home for the year 1835 was already secured, my next 
master selected. There was always more or less excite- 
ment about the changing of hands, but I had become 
somewhat reckless and cared little into whose hands I 
fell, determined to fight my way. The report got abroad 
that I was hard to whip, that I was guilty of kicking 
back, and though generally a good-natured negro, I some- 
times "got the devil in me." These sayings were rife in 
Talbot County, and they distinguished me among my ser- 
vile brethren. Slaves would sometimes fight with each 
other, and even die at each other's hands, but there were 
very few who were not held in awe by a white man. 
Trained from the cradle up to think and feel that their 
masters were superiors, and invested with a sort of 
sacredness, there were few who could rise above the con- 
trol which that sentiment exercised. I had freed myself 
8 (179) 


from it, and the thing was known. One bad sheep will 
spoil a whole flock. I was a bad sheep. I hated slavery, 
slaveholders, and all pertaining to them ; and I did not 
fail to inspire others with the same feeling wherever and 
whenever opportunity was presented. This made me a 
marked lad among the slaves, and a suspected one among 
slaveholders. A knowledge of my ability to read and 
write got pretty widely spread, which was very much 
against me. 

The days between Christmas day and New Year's w^ere 
allowed the slaves as holidays. During these days all 
regular work was suspended, and there was nothing to do 
but to keep fires and look after the stock. We regarded 
this time as our own by the grace of our masters, and we 
therefore used it or abused it as we pleased. Those who 
had families at a distance were expected to visit them 
and spend with them the entire week. The younger 
slaves or the unmarried ones were expected to see to 
the cattle, and attend to incidental duties at home. The 
holidays were variously spent. The sober, thinking, 
industrious ones would employ themselves in manufac- 
turing corn-brooms, mats, horse-collars, and baskets, and 
some of these were very well made. Another class spent 
their time in hunting opossums, coons, rabbits, and other 
game. But the majority spent the holidays in sports, 
ball-playing, wrestling, boxing, running, foot-races, danc- 
ing, and drinking whisky; and this latter mode was 
generally most agreeable to their masters. A slave who 
would work during the holidays was thought by his mas- 
ter undeserving of holidays. There was in this simple 
act of continued work an accusation against slaves, and 
a slave could not help thinking that if he made three 
dollars during the holidays he might make three hundred 
during the year. Not to be drunk during the holidays 
was disgraceful. 

THE slave's fare. 181 

The fiddling, dancing, and "jubilee beating" was car- 
ried on in all directions. This latter performance was 
strictly southern. It supplied the place of violin, or of 
other musical instruments, and was played so easily that 
almost every farm had its " Juba " beater. The performer 
improvised as he beat the instrument, marking the words 
as he sang so as to have them fall pat with the movement 
of his hands. Among a mass of nonsense and wild 
frolic, once in a while a sharp hit was given to the mean- 
ness of slaveholders. Take the following for example : 

We raise de wheat. We peel de meat, 

Dey gib us de corn : Dey gib us de skin ; 

We bake de bread. And dat's de way 

Dey gib us de crust ; Dey take us in ; 

We sif de meal, We skim de pot, 

Dey gib us de huss; Dey gib us de liquor. 

And say dat's good enough for nigger. 

Walk over! walk over! 

Your butter and de fat ; 

Poor nigger, you can't get over dat I 
Walk over — 

This is not a bad summary of the palpable injustice 
and fraud of slavery, giving, as it does, to the lazy and 
idle the comforts which God designed should be given 
solely to the honest laborer. But to the holidays. Judg- 
ing from my own observation and experience, I believe 
those holidays were among the most effective means in 
the hands of slaveholders of keeping down the spirit of 
insurrection among the slaves. 

"^ To enslave men successfully and safely it is necessary 
to keep their minds occupied with thoughts and aspira- 
tions short of the liberty of which they are deprived. A 
certain degree of attainable good must be kept before 
them. These holidays served the purpose of keeping the 
minds of the slaves occupied with prospective pleasure 
within the limits of slavery. The young man could go 


wooing, the married man to see his wife, the father and 
mother to see their children, the industrious and money- 
loving could make a few dollars, the great wrestler could 
r win laurels, the young people meet and enjoy each other's 
society, the drinking man could get plenty of whisky, 
and the religious man could hold prayer-meetings, preach, 
pray, and exhort. Before the holidays there were pleas- 
ures in prospect; after the holidays they were pleas- 
ures of memory, and they served to keep out thoughts 
and wishes of a more dangerous character. These holi- 
days were also sort of conductors or safety-valves, to 
carry off the explosive elements inseparal)le from the 
human mind when reduced to the condition of slavery. 
But for these the rigors of bondage would have become 
too severe for endurance, and the slave would have been 
forced up to dangerous desperation. 

Thus they became a part and parcel of the gross 
wrongs and inhumanity of slavery. Ostensibly they were 
institutions of benevolence designed to mitigate the rigors 
of slave-life, but practically they were a fraud instituted 
by human selfishness, the better to secure the ends of 
injustice and oppression. The slave's happiness was not 
the end sought, but the master's safety. It was not from 
a generous unconcern for the slave's labor, but from a 
prudent regard for the slave system. I am strengthened 
in this opinion from the fact that most slaveholders liked 
to have their slaves spend the holidays in such manner 
as to be of no real benefit to them. Everything like 
rational enjoyment was frowned upon, and only those 
wild and low sports peculiar to semi-civilized people were 
encouraged. The license allowed appeared to have no 
other object than to disgust the slaves with their tempo- 
rary freedom, and to make them as glad to return to their 
work as they were to leave it. I have known slaveholders 
resort to cunning tricks, with a view of getting their 


slaves deplorably drunk. The usual plan was to make 
bets on a slave that he could drink more whisky than 
any other, and so induce a rivalry among them for the 
mastery in this degradation. The scenes brought about 
in this way were often scandalous and loathsome in the 
extreme. Whole multitudes might be found stretched 
out in brutal drunkenness, at once helpless and disgust- 
ing. Thus, when the slave asked for hours of " virtuous 
liberty," his cunning master took advantage of his igno- 
rance and cheered him with a dose of vicious and revolt- 
ing dissipation artfully labeled with the name of " liberty.''^ 

We were induced to drink, I among the rest, and when 
the holidays were over we all staggered up from our filth 
and wallowing, took a long breath, and went away to our 
^various fields of work, feeling, upon the whole, rather 
glad to go from that which our masters had artfully de- 
ceived us into the belief was freedom, back again to the 
arms of slavery. It was not what we had taken it to be, 
nor what it would have been, had it not been abused by 
us. It was about as well to be a slave to master, as to be 
a slave to whisky and rum. When the slave was drunk 
the slaveholder had no fear that he would plan an insur- 
rection, no fear that he would escape to the North. It 
was the sober, thoughtful slave who was dangerous, and 
needed the vigilance of his master to keep him a slave. 
But to proceed with my narrative. 

On the first of January, 1835, I proceeded from St. 
Michaels to Mr. William Freeland's — my new home. Mr. 
Freeland lived only three miles from St. Michaels, on an 
old, worn-out farm, which required much labor to render 
it anything like a self-supporting establishment. 

I found Mr. Freeland a different man from Covey. 
Though not rich, he was what might have been called a 
well-bred Southern gentleman. Though a slaveholder 
and sharing in common with them many of the vices of 


his class, he seemed alive to the sentiment of honor, and 
had also some sense of justice, and some feelings of hu- 
manity. He was fretful, impulsive, and passionate, but 
free from the mean and selfish characteristics which dis- 
tinguished the creature from which I had happily escaped. 
Mr. Frceland was open, frank, imperative, and practiced 
no concealments, and disdained to play the spy ; in all 
these qualities the opposite of Covey. 

My poor weather-beaten bark now reached smoother 
water and gentler breezes. My stormy life at Covey's 
had been of service to me. The things that would have 
seemed very hard had I gone direct to Mr. Freeland's 
from the home of Master Thomas were now " trifles light 
as air." I was still a field-hand, and had come to prefer 
the severe labor of the field to the enervating duties of a*, 
house-servant. I had become large and strong, and had 
begun to take pride in the fact that I could do as much 
hard work as some of the older men. There was much 
rivalry among slaves at times as to which could do the 
most work, and masters generally sought to promote such 
rivalry. But some of us were too wise to race with each 
other very long. Such racing, we had the sagacity to 
see, was not likely to pay. We had our times for measur- 
ing each other's strength, but we knew too much to keep 
up the competition so long as to produce an extraordinary 
day's work. We knew that if by extraordinary exer- 
tion a large quantity of work was done in one day, and it 
became known to the master, it might lead him to 
require the same amount every day. This thought was 
enough to bring us to a dead halt when ever so much 
excited for the race. 

At Mr. Freeland's my condition was every way im- 
proved. I was no longer the scapegoat that I was when 
at Covey's, where every wrong thing done was saddled 
upon me, and where other slaves were whipped over my 



shoulders. Bill Smith was protected by a positive pro- 
hibition, liiade by his rich master (and the command of 
the rich slaveholder v^as law to the poor one). Hughes 
was favored by his relationship to Covey, and the hands 
hired temporarily escaped flogging. I was the general 
pack-horse ; but Mr. Freeland held every man individ- 
ually responsible for his own conduct. Mr. Freeland, 
like Mr. Covey, gave his hands enough to eat, but, unlike 
Mr. Covey, he gave them time to take their meals. He 
worked us hard during the day, but gave us the night for 
rest. We were seldom in the field after dark in the even- 
ing, or before sunrise in the morning. Our implements 
of husbandry were of the most improved pattern, and 
much superior to those used at Covey's. 

Notwithstanding all the improvement in my relations, 
notwithstanding the many advantages I had gained by 
my new home and my new master, I was still restless and 
discontented. I was about as hard to please by a master 
as a master is by a slave. The freedom from bodily tor- 
ture and unceasing labor had given my mind an increased 
sensibility, and imparted to it greater activity. I was 
not yet exactly in right relations. "Howbeit, that was 
not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural, and 
afterward that which is spiritual." When entombed at 
Covey's, shrouded in darkness and physical wretchedness, 
temporal well-being was the grand desideratum ; but, tem- 
poral wants supplied, the spirit puts in its claims. Beat 
and cuff your slave, keep him hungry and spiritless, and 
he will follow the chain of his master like a dog ; but 
feed and clothe him well, work him moderately, surround 
him with physical comfort, and dreams of freedom 
intrude. Give him a had master, and he aspires to a 
good master ; give him a good master, and he wishes to 
become his own master. Such is human nature. You 
may hurl a man so low beneath the level of his kind, 


that he loses all just ideas of his natural position, but 
elevate him a little, and the clear conception of rights 
rises to life and power, and leads him onward. Thus 
elevated a little at Freeland's, the dreams called into 
being by that good man. Father Lawson, when in Balti- 
more, began to visit me again ; shoots from the tree of 
liberty began to put forth buds, and dim hopes of the 
future began to dawn. 

I found myself in congenial society. There were Henry 
Harris, John Harris, Handy Caldwell, and Sandy Jen- 
kins (this last, of the root-preventive memory). 

Henry and John Harris were brothers, and belonged to 
Mr. Freeland. They were both remarkably bright and 
intelligent, though neither of them could read. Now for 
mischief ! I had not been long here before I was up to 
my old tricks. I began to address my companions on the 
subject of education, and the advantages of intelligence 
over ignorance, and, as far as I dared, I tried to show the 
agency of ignorance in keeping men in slavery. Web- 
ster's spelling-book and the Columbian Orator were looked 
into again. As summer came on, and the long Sabbath 
days stretched themselves over our idleness, I became 
uneasy, and wanted a Sabbath-school, where to exercise 
my gifts, and to impart the little knowledge I possessed 
to my brother-slaves. A house was hardly necessary in 
the summer time ; I could hold my school under the shade 
of an old oak tree as well as any where else. The thing 
was to get the scholars, and to have them thoroughly 
imbued with the idea to learn. Two such boys were 
quickly found in Henry and John, and from them the 
contagion spread. I was not long in bringing around me 
twenty or thirty young men, who enrolled themselves 
gladly in my Sabbath-school, and were willing to meet 
me regularly under the trees or elsewhere, for the purpose 
of learning to read. It was surprising with what ease 


tliey provided themselves witli spelling-books. Tliese 
were mostly the cast-off books of their young masters or 
mistresses. I taught at first on our own farm. All 
were impressed with the necessity of keeping the matter 
as private as possible, for the fate of the St. Michaels 
attempt was still fresh in the minds of all. Our pious 
masters at St. Michaels must not know that a few of 
their dusky brothers were learning to read the Word of 
God, lest they should come down upon us with the lash 
and chain. We might have met to drink whisky, to 
wrestle, fight, and to do other unseemly things, with no 
fear of interruption from the saints or the sinners of St. 
Michaels. But to meet for the purpose of improving the 
mind and heart, by learning to read the sacred scriptures, 
was a nuisance to be instantly stopped. The slave- 
holders there, like slaveholders elsewhere, preferred to 
see the slaves engaged in degrading sports, rather than 
acting like moral and accountable beings. Had any one 
asked a religious white man in St. Michaels, at that time, 
the names of three men in that town whose lives were 
most after the pattern of our Lord and Master Jesus 
Christ, the reply would have been : Garrison West, class- 
leader, Wright Fairbanks and Thomas Auld, both also 
class-leaders ; and yet these men ferociously rushed in 
upon my Sabbath-school, armed with mob-like missiles, 
and forbade our meeting again on pain of having our 
backs subjected to the bloody lash. This same Garrison 
West was my class-leader, and I had thought him a Chris- 
tian until he took part in breaking up my school. He 
led me no more after that. 

The plea for this outrage was then, as it is always, the 
tyrant's plea of necessity. If the slaves learned to read 
they would learn something more and something worse. 
The peace of slavery would be disturbed; slave rule 
would be endangered. I do not dispute the soundness 


of the reasoning. If slavery were right, Sabbath-schools 
for teaching slaves to read were wrong, and ought to 
liave been put down. These Christian class-leaders 
were, to this extent, consistent. They had settled the 
question that slavery was right, and by that standard 
they determined that Sabbath-schools were wrong. To 
be sure they were Protestant, and held to the great 
Protestant right of every man to "search the Scriptures" 
for himself ; but then, to all general rules there are 
exceptions. How convenient ! What crimes may not be 
committed under such ruling ! But my dear class-lead- 
ing Methodist brethren did not condescend to give me a 
reason for breaking up the school at St. Michaels ; they 
had determined its destruction, and that was enough. 
However, I am digressing. 

After getting the school nicely started a second time, 
holding it in the woods behind the barn, and in the shade 
of trees, I succeeded in inducing a free colored man who 
lived several miles from our house to permit me to hold 
my school in a room at his house. He incurred much 
peril in doing so, for the assemblage was an unlawful 
one. I had at one time more than forty scholars, all of 
the right sort, and many of them succeeded in learning 
to read. I have had various employments during my 
life, but I look back to none with more satisfaction. An 
attachment, deep and permanent, sprung up between me 
and my persecuted pupils, which made my parting from 
them intensely painful. 

Besides my Sunday-school, I devoted three evenings a 
week to my other fellow slaves during the winter. Those 
dear souls who came to my Sabbath-school came not 
because it was popular or reputable to do so, for they 
came with a liability of having forty stripes laid on their 
naked backs. In this Christian country men and women 
were obliged to hide in barns and woods and trees 


from professing Christians, in order to learn to read the 
Holy Bible. Their minds had been cramped and starved 
by their cruel masters ; the light of education had been 
completely excluded, and their hard earnings had been 
taken to educate their master's children. I felt a delight 
in circumventing the tyrants, and in blessing victims of 
their curses. 

The year at Mr. Freeland's passed off very smoothly, 
to outward seeming. Not a blow was given me during 
the whole year. To the credit of Mr. Freeland, irreligious 
though he was, it must be stated that he was the best 
master I ever had until I became my own master and 
assumed for myself, as I had a right to do, the responsi- 
bility of my own existence and the exercise of my own 

For much of the happiness, or absence of misery, with 
which I passed this year, I am indebted to the genial 
temper and ardent friendship of my brother slaves. 
They were every one of them manly, generous, and brave ; 
yes, I say they were brave, and I will add, fine-looking. 
It is seldom the lot of any to have truer and better 
friends than were the slaves on this farm. It was not 
uncommon to charge slaves with great treachery toward 
each other, but I must say I never loved, esteemed, or 
confided in men more than I did in these. They were as 
true as steel, and no band of brothers could be more 
loving. There were no mean advantages taken of each 
other, no tattling, no giving each other bad names to Mr. 
Freeland, and no elevating one at the expense of the 
other. We never undertook anything of any importance 
which was likely to affect each other, without mutual con- 
sultation. We were generally a unit, and moved together. 
Thoughts and sentiments were exchanged between us 
which might well have been considered incendiary had 
they been known by our masters. The slaveholder, were 

190 slaveholders' position. 

he kind or cruel, was a slaveholder still, tlie every-hour 
violator of the just and inaliena])le rights of man, and 
he was therefore every hour silently but surely whetting 
the knife of vengeance for his own throat. He never 
lisped a syllable in commendation of the fathers of this 
republic without inviting the sword, and asserting the 
right of rebellion for his own slaves. 



Itew fear's thoughts and meditations — Again hired by Freeland — 
Kindness no compensation for slavery — Incipient steps toward 
escape — Considerations leading thereto — Hostility to slavery — 
Solemn vow taken — Plan divulged to slaves — Columbian Orator 
again — Scheme gains favor — Danger of discovery — Skill of slave- 
holders — Suspicion and coercion — Hymns with double meaning — 
Consultation — Pass-word — Hope and fear — Ignorance of geography 
— Imaginary difficulties — Patrick Henry — Sandy a dreamer — Route 
to the north mapped out — Objections — Frauds — Passes — Anxieties 
— Fear of failure — Strange presentiment — Coincidence — Betrayal — 
Arrests — Resistance — Mrs. Freeland — Prison — Brutal jests — Passes 
eaten — Denial — Sandy — Dragged behind horses — Slave-traders — 
Alone in prison — Sent to Baltimore. 

I AM now at the beginning of the year 1836, when the 
mind naturally occupies itself with the mysteries of 
life in all its phases — the ideal, the real, and the actual. 
Sober people look both ways at the beginning of a new 
year, surveying the errors of the past, and providing 
against the possible errors of the future. I, too, was 
thus exercised. I had little pleasure in retrospect, and 
the future prospect was not brilliant. " Notwithstand- 
ing," thought I, " the many resolutions and prayers I have 
made in behalf of freedom, I am, this first day of the 
year 1836, still a slave, still wandering in the depths of a 
miserable bondage. My faculties and powers of body and 
soul are not my own, but are the property of a fellow- 
mortal in no sense superior to me, except that he has the 
physical power to compel me to be owned and controlled 
by him. By the combined physical force of the com- 
munity I am his slave — a slave for life." With thoughts 




like these I was chafed and perplexed, and they rendered 
me gloomy and disconsolate. The anguish of my mind 
cannot be written. 

At the close of the year, Mr. Freeland renewed the 
purchase of my services of Mr. Auld for the coming year. 
His promptness in doing so would have been flattering to 
my vanity had I been ambitious to win the reputation of 
being a valuable slave. Even as it was, I felt a slight 
degree of complacency at the circumstance. It showed 
him to be as well pleased with me as a slave as I with 
him as a master. But the kindness of the slave-master 
only gilded the chain, it detracted nothing from its weight 
or strength. The thought that men are made for other 
and better uses than slavery, throve best under the gentle 
treatment of a kind master. Its grim visage could assume 
no smiles able to fascinate the partially enlightened slave 
into a forge tfulness of his bondage, or of the desirable- 
ness of liberty. 

I was not through the first month of my second year 
with the kind and gentlemanly Mr. Freeland before I was 
earnestly considering and devising plans for gaining that 
freedom which, when I was but a mere child, I had ascer- 
tained to be the natural and inborn right of every mem- 
ber of the human family. The desire for this freedom 
had been benumbed while I was under the brutalizing 
dominion of Covey, and it had been postponed and ren- 
dered inoperative by my truly pleasant Sunday-school 
engagements with my friends during the year at Mr. 
Freeland's. It had, however, never entirely subsided. 1 
hated slavery always^ and my desire for freedom needed 
only a favorable breeze to fan it to a blaze at any moment. 
The thought of being only a creature of the present and 
the past troubled me, and I longed to have future — a 
future with hope in it. To be shut up entirely to the past 
and present is to the soul whose life and happiness is 


unceasing progress — what the prison is to the body — a 
blight and a mildew, a hell of horrors. The dawning of 
this, another year, awakened me from my temporary 
slumber, and roused into life my latent but long-cherished 
aspirations for freedom. I became not only ashamed to 
be contented in slavery, but ashamed to seem to be con- 
tented, and in my present favorable condition under the 
.mild rule of Mr. Freeland, I am not sure that some kind 
reader will not condemn me for being over-ambitious, and 
greatly wanting in humility, when I say the truth, that I 
now drove from me all thoughts of making the best of 
my lot, and welcomed only such thoughts as led me 
away from the house of bondage. The intensity of my 
desire to be free, quickened by my present favorable cir- 
cumstances, brought me to the determination tp act as 
well as to think and speak. 

Accordingly, at the beginning of this year 1836, I took 
upon me a solemn vow, that the year which had just now 
dawned upon me should not close without witnessing an 
earnest attempt, on my part, to gain my liberty. This 
vow only bound me to make good my own individual 
escape, but my friendship for my brother-slaves was so 
affectionate and confiding that I felt it my duty, as well 
as my pleasure, to give them an opportunity to share in 
my determination. Toward Henry and John Harris I 
felt a friendship as strong as one man can feel for another, 
for I could have died with and for them. To them, there- 
fore, with suitable caution, I began to disclose my senti- 
ments and plans, sounding them the while on the subject 
of running away, provided a good chance should offer. 
I need not say that I did my very best to imbue the minds 
of my dear friends with my own views and feelings. 
Thoroughly awakened now, and with a definite vow upon 
me, all my little reading which had any bearing on the 
subject of human rights was rendered available in my 


coinmimications with my friends. That gem of a book, 
the Columbian Orator, with its eloquent orations and 
spicy dialogues denouncing oppression and slavery — ^tell- 
ing what had been dared, done, and suffered by men, to 
obtain the inestimable boon of liberty, — was still fresh in 
my memory, and whirled into the ranks of my speech 
with the aptitude of well-trained soldiers going through 
the drill. I here began my public speaking. I canvassed 
with Henry and John the subject of slavery, and dashed 
against it the condemning brand of God's eternal justice. 
My fellow-servants were neither indifferent, dull, nor 
inapt. Our feelings were more alike than our opinions. 
All, however, were ready to act when a feasible plan 
should be proposed. " Show us how the thing is to be 
done," said they, " and all else is clear." 

We were all, except Sandy, quite clear from slave- 
holding priestcraft. It was in vain that we had been 
taught from the pulpit at St. Michaels the duty of obe- 
dience to our masters ; to recognize God as the author 
of our enslavement ; to regard running away as an offense, 
alike against God and man ; to deem our enslavement a 
merciful and beneficial arrangement ; to esteem our con- 
dition in this country a paradise to that from which we 
had been snatched in Africa ; to consider our hard hands 
and dark color as God's displeasure, and as pointing us 
out as the proper subjects of slavery ; that the relation of 
master and slave was one of reciprocal benefits ; that our 
work was not more serviceable to our masters than our 
master's thinking was to us. I say it was in vain that 
the pulpit of St. Michaels had constantly inculcated these 
plausible doctrines. Nature laughed them to scorn. 
For my part, I had become altogether too big for my 
chains. Father Lawson's solemn words of what I ought 
to be, and what I might be in the providence of God, had 
not fallen dead on my soul. I was fast verging toward 


manhood, and the prophesies of my childhood were still 
unfulfilled. The thought that year after year had passed 
away, and my best resolutions to run away had failed 
and faded, that I was still a slave, with chances for gain- 
ing my freedom diminished and still diminishing — ^was not 
a matter to be slept over easily. But here came a trouble. 
Such thoughts and purposes as I now cherished could not 
agitate the mind long without making themselves mani- 
fest to scrutinizing and unfriendly observers. 1 had rea- 
son to fear that my sable face might prove altogether too 
transparent for the safe concealment of my hazardous 
enterprise. Plans of great moment have leaked through 
stone walls, and revealed their projectors. But here was 
no stone wall to hide my purpose. I would have given 
my poor tell-tale face for the immovable countenance of 
an Indian, for it .was far from proof against the daily 
searching glances of those whom I met. 

It was the interest and business of slaveholders to study 
human nature, and the slave nature in particular, with a 
view to practical results ; and many of them attained 
astonishing proficiency in this direction. They had to 
deal not with earth, wood, and stone, but with men ; and 
by every regard they had for their safety and prosperity 
they had need to know the material on which they were 
to work. So much intellect as the slaveholder had round 
him required watching. Their safety depended on their 
vigilance. Conscious of the injustice and wrong they 
were every hour perpetrating, and knowing what they 
themselves would do if they were victims of such wrongs, 
they were constantly looking out for the first signs of the 
dread retribution. They watched, therefore, with skilled 
and practiced eyes, and learned to read, with great accu- 
racy, the state of mind and heart of the slave through his 
sable face. Unusual sobriety, apparent abstraction, sul- 
lenness, and indifference, — indeed, any mood out of the 


common way, — afforded ground for suspicion and inquiry. 
Kclying on their superior position and wisdom, they 
would often hector the slave into a confession by affect- 
ing to know the truth of their accusations. "You have 
got the devil in you, and we'll whip him out of you," they 
would say. I have often been put thus to the torture on 
bare suspicion. This system had its disadvantages as 
well as its opposite — the slave being sometimes whipped 
into the confession of offenses which he never committed. 
It will be seen that the good old rule, "A man is to be 
held innocent ^until proved to be guilty," did not hold 
good on the slave plantation. Suspicion and torture were 
the approved methods of getting at the truth there. It 
was necessary, therefore, for me to keep a watch over my 
deportment, lest the enemy should get the better of me. 
But with all our caution and studied reserve, I am not 
sure that Mr. Freeland did not suspect that all was not 
riorht with us. It did seem that he watched us more 
narrowly after the plan of escape had been conceived and 
discussed amongst us. Men seldom see themselves as 
others see them ; and while to our selveseverything con- 
nected with our contemplated escape appeared concealed, 
Mr. Freeland may, with the peculiar prescience of a slave- 
holder, have mastered the huge thought which was dis- 
turbing our peace. As I now look back, I am the more 
inclined to think he suspected us, because, prudent as we 
were, I can see that we did many silly things well cal- 
culated to awaken suspicion. We were at times remark- 
ably buoyant, singing hymns, and making joyous excla- 
mations, almost as triumphant in their tone as if we had 
reached a land of freedom and safety. A keen observer 
might have detected in our repeated singing of 

" O Canaan, sweet Canaan, 

I am bound for the land of Canaan," 

I AM THE MAN. 197 

something more than a hope of reaching heaven. We 
meant to reach the Norths and the North was our Canaan. 

"I thought I heard them say- 
There were lions in the way ; 
I don't expect to stay 

Much longer here. 
Run to Jesus, shun the danger. 

I don't expect to stay 

Much longer here," 

was a favorite air, and had a double meaning. On the 
lips of some it meant the expectation of a speedy sum- 
mons to a world of spirits ; but on the lips of our com- 
pany it simply meant a speedy pilgrimage to a free State, 
and deliverance from all the evils and dangers of slavery. 
I had succeeded in winning to my scheme a company 
of five young men, the very flower of the neighborhood, 
each one of whom would have commanded one thousand 
dollars in the home market. At New Orleans they would 
have brought fifteen hundred dollars apiece, and perhaps 
more. Their names were as follows : Henry Harris, 
John Harris, Sandy Jenkins, Charles Roberts, and Henry 
Bailey. I was the youngest but one of the party. I had, 
however, the advantage of them all in experience, and in 
a knowledge of letters. This gave me a great influence 
over them. Perhaps not one of them, left to himself, 
would have dreamed of escape as a possible thing. They 
all wanted to be free, but the serious thought of running 
away had not entered into their minds until I won them 
to the undertaking. They were all tolerably well off — 
for slaves — and had dim hopes of being set free some day 
by their masters. If any one is to blame for disturbing 
the quiet of the slaves and slave-masters of the neighbor- 
hood of St. Michaels, I am the man. I claim to be the 
instigator of the high crime (as the slaveholders 
regarded it), and I kept life in it till life could be kept in 
it no longer. 


Pending the time of our contemplated departure out of 
our Egypt, we met often by night, and on every Sunday. 
At these meetings we talked the matter over, told our 
hopes and fears, and the difficulties discovered or 
imagined ; and, like men of sense, we counted the cost of 
the enterprise to which we were committing ourselves. 
These meetings must have resembled, on a small scale, 
the meetings of the revolutionary conspirators in their 
primary condition. We were plotting against our (so- 
called) lawful rulers, with this difference — we sought our 
own good, and not the harm of our enemies. We did 
not seek to overthrow them, but to escape from them. 
As for Mr. Freeland, we all liked him, and would gladly 
have remained with him as free men. Liberty was our 
aim, and we had now come to think that we had a right 
to it against every obstacle, even against the lives of our 

We had several words, expressive of things important 
to us, which we understood, but which, even if distinctly 
heard by an outsider, would have conveyed no certain 
meaning. I hated this secrecy, but where slavery was 
powerful, and liberty weak, the latter was driven to con- 
cealment or destruction. 

The prospect was not always bright. At times we 
were almost tempted to abandon the enterprise, and to 
try to get back to that comparative peace of mind which 
even a man under the gallows might feel when all hope of 
escape had vanished. We were confident, bold, and deter- 
mined, at times, and again doubting, timid, and wavering, 
whistling, like the boy in the grave-yard, to keep away 
the spirits. 

To look at the map and observe the proximity of East- 
ern shore, Maryland, to Delaware and Pennsylvania, it 
may seem to the reader quite absurd to regard the pro- 
posed escape as a formidable undertaking. But to under- 


stand, some one has said, a man must stand under. The 
real distance was great enough, but the imagined distance 
was, to our ignorance, much greater. Slaveholders 
sought to impress their slaves with a belief in the bound- 
lessness of slave territory, and of their own limitless 
power. Our notions of the geography of the country 
were very vague and indistinct. The distance, however, 
was not the chief trouble, for the nearer the lines of a 
slave state to the borders of a free state the greater was 
the trouble. Hired kidnappers infested the borders. 
Then, too, we knew that merely reaching a free state did 
not free us, that wherever caught we could be returned to 
slavery. We knew of no spot this side the ocean where 
we could be safe. We had heard of Canada, then the 
only real Canaan of the American bondman, simply as a 
country to whicli the wild goose and the swan repaired at 
the end of winter to escape the heat of summer, but not as 
the home of man. I knew something of theology, but 
nothing of geography. I really did not know that there 
was a State of New York, or a State of Massachusetts. 
I had heard of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey, 
and all the Southern States, but was utterly ignorant of 
the free States. New York City was our northern limit, 
and to go there and to be forever harassed with the lia- 
bility of being hunted down and returned to slavery, with 
the certainty of being treated ten times worse than ever 
before, was a prospect which might well cause some hesi- 
tation. The case sometimes, to our excited visions, stood 
thus : At every gate through which we had to pass we 
saw a watchman; at every ferry a guard; on every 
bridge a sentinel, and in every wood a patrol or slave- 
hunter. We were hemmed in on every side. The good 
to be sought and the evil to be shunned were flung in the 
balance and weighed against each other. On the one 
hand stood slavery, a stern reality glaring frightfully 


upon US, with the blood of millions in its polluted skirts, 
terrible to behold, greedily devouring our hard earnings 
and feeding it upon our flesh. This was the evil from 
which to escape. On the other hand, far away, back in 
the hazy distance, where all forms seemed but shadows 
under the flickering light of the north star, behind some 
craggy hill or snow-capped mountain, stood a doubtful 
freedom, half frozen, beckoning us to her icy domain. 
This was the good to be sought. The inequality was as 
great as that between certainty and uncertainty. This in 
itself was enough to stagger us ; but when we came to sur- 
vey the untrodden road and conjecture the many possible 
difficulties, we were appalled, and at times, as I have said, 
were upon the point of giving over the struggle altogether. 
The reader can have little idea of the phantoms which 
would flit, in such circumstances, before the uneducated 
mind of the slave. Upon either side we saw grim death, 
assuming a variety of horrid shapes. Now it was star- 
vation, causing us, in a strange and friendless land, to 
eat our own flesh. Now we were contending with the 
waves and were drowned. Now we were hunted by dogs 
and overtaken, and torn to pieces by their merciless fangs. 
We were stung by scorpions, chased by wild beasts, bitten 
by snakes, and worst of all, after having succeeded in 
swimming rivers, encountering wild beasts, sleeping in 
the woods, suffering hunger, cold, heat, and nakedness, 
overtaken by hired kidnappers, who, in the name of law 
and for the thrice-cursed reward, would, perchance, fire 
upon us, kill some, wound others, and capture all. This 
dark picture, drawn by ignorance and fear, at times greatly 
shook our determination, and not unfrequently caused 
us to 

'* Rather bear the ills we had, 
Than flee to others which we knew not of." 


I am not disposed to magnify tliis circumstance in my 
experience, and yet I think I shall seem to be so disposed 
to the reader, but no man can tell the intense agony which 
was felt by the slave when wavering on the point of 
making his escape. All that he has is at stake, and even 
that which he has not is at stake also. The life which he 
has may be lost, and the liberty which he seeks may not 
be o;ained. 

Patrick Henry, to a listening senate which was thrilled 
by his magic eloquence and ready to stand by him in his 
boldest flights, could say, " Give me liberty or give me 
death ;" and this saying was a sublime one, even for a 
freeman; but incomparably more sublime is the same 
sentiment when practically asserted by men accustomed 
to the lash and chain, men whose sensibilities must have 
become more or less deadened by their bondage. With 
us it was a doubtful liberty, at best, that we sought, and 
a certain lingering death in the rice-swamps and sugar- 
fields if we failed. Life is not lightly regarded by men 
of sane minds. It is precious both to the pauper and to 
the prince, to the slave and to his master ; and yet I 
believe there was not one among us who would not rather 
have been shot down than pass away life in hopeless 

In the progress of our preparations Sandy (the root 
man) became troubled. He began to have distressing 
dreams. One of these, which happened on a Friday 
night, was to him of great significance, and I am quite 
ready to confess that I felt somewhat damped by it my- 
self. He said : " I dreamed last night that I was roused 
from sleep by strange noises, like the noises of a swarm 
of angry birds that caused a roar as they passed, and 
which fell upon my ear like a coming gale over the tops 
of the trees. Looking up to see what it could mean I 
saw you, Frederick, in the claws of a huge bird, surrounded 

202 Sandy's dream. 

by a large number of birds of all colors and sizes. These 
were all pecking at you, while you, with your arms, seemed 
to be trying to protect your eyes. Passing over me, the 
birds flew in a southwesterly direction, and I watched 
them until they were clean out of sight. Now I saw this 
as plainly as I now see you ; and furder, honey, watch 
de Friday night dream; dere is sumpon in it sliose you 
born ; dere is indeed, honey." I did not like the dream, 
but I showed no concern, attributing it to the general 
excitement and perturbation consequent upon our con* 
templated plan to escape. I could not, however, shake 
off its effect at once. I felt that it boded no good. 
Sandy was unusually emphatic and oracular, and his 
manner had much to do with the impression made upon 

The plan which I recommended, and to which my com- 
rades consented, for our escape, was to take a large canoe 
owned by Mr. Hamilton, and on the Saturday night pre- 
vious to the Easter holidays launch out into the Chesa- 
peake bay and paddle for its head, a distance of seventy 
miles, with all our might. On reaching this point we 
were to turn the canoe adrift and bend our steps toward 
the north-star till we reached a free state. 

There were several objections to this plan. In rough 
weather the waters of the Chesapeake are much agitated, 
and there would be danger, in a canoe, of being swamped 
by the waves. Another objection was that the canoe 
would soon be missed, the absent slaves would at once be 
suspected of having taken it, and we should be pursued 
by some of the fast-sailing craft out of St. Michaels. 
Then again, if we reached the head of the bay and turned 
the canoe adrift, she might prove a guide to our track 
and bring the hunters after us. 

These and other objections were set aside by the stronger 
ones, which could be urged against every other plan that 


could then be suggested. On the water we had a chance 
of being regarded as fishermen, in the service of a 
master. On the other hand, by taking the land route, 
through the counties adjoining Delaware, we should be 
subjected to all manner of interruptions, and many disa- 
greeable questions, which might give us serious trouble. 
Any white man, if he pleased, was authorized to stop a 
man of color on any road, and examine and arrest him. 
By this arrangement many abuses (considered such even 
by slaveholders) occurred. Cases have been known 
where freemen, being called upon to show their free 
papers by a pack of ruffians, and on the presentation of 
the papers, the ruffians have torn them up, and seized 
the victim and sold him to a life of endless bondage. 

The week before our intended start, I wrote a pass for 
each of our party, giving them permission to visit Balti- 
more during the Easter holidays. The pass ran after this 
manner : 

" This is to certify that I, the undersigned, have given 
the bearer, my servant John, full liberty to go to Balti- 
more to spend the Easter holidays. w. h. 

Near St. Michaels, Talbot Co., Md." 

Although we were not going to Baltimore, and were 
intending to land east of North Point, in the direction I 
had seen the Philadelphia steamers go, these passes might 
be useful to us in the lower part of the bay, while steering 
towards Baltimore. These were not, however, to be 
shown by us, until all other answers failed to satisfy the 
inquirer. We were all fully alive to the importance of 
being calm and self-possessed when accosted, if accosted 
we should be ; and we more than once rehearsed to each 
other how we should behave in the hour of trial. 

Those were long, tedious days and nights. The sus- 
pense was painful in the extreme. To balance probabili- 


ties, where life and liberty hang on the result, requires 
steady nerves. I panted for action, and was glad when 
the day, at the close of which we were to start, dawned 
upon us. Sleeping the night before was out of the 
question. I probably felt more deeply than any of my 
companions, because I was the instigator of the move- 
ment. The responsibility of the whole enterprise rested 
on my shoulders. The glory of success, and the shame 
and confusion of failure, could not be matters of indiffer- 
ence to me. Our food was prepared, our clothes were 
packed ; we were already to go, and impatient for Satur- 
day morning — considering that the last of our bondage. 

I cannot describe the tempest and tumult of my brain 
that morning. Tlie reader will please bear in mind that 
in a slave State an unsuccessful runaway was not only 
subjected to cruel torture, and sold away to the far South, 
but he was frequently execrated by the other slaves. He 
was charged with making the condition of the other 
slaves intolerable by laying them all under the suspicion 
of their masters — subjecting them to greater vigilance, 
and imposing greater limitations on their privileges. I 
dreaded murmurs from this quarter. It was difficult, too, 
for a slave-master to believe that slaves escaping had not 
been aided in their flight by some one of their fellow- 
slaves. When, therefore, a slave was missing, every slave 
on the place was closely examined as to his knowledge of 
the undertaking. 

Our anxiety grew more and more intense, as the time 
of our intended departure drew nigh. It was truly felt to 
be a matter of life and death with us, and we fully 
intended to fight^ as well as run^ if necessity should occur 
for that extremity. But the trial-hour had not yet come. 
It was easy to resolve, but not so easy to act. I expected 
there might be some drawing back at the last ; it was 
natural there should be ; therefore, during the interven- 


ing time, I lost no opportunity to explain away difficulties, 
remove doubts, dispel fears, and inspire all with firmness. 
It was too late to look back, and now was the time to go 
forward. I appealed to the pride of my comrades by tell- 
ing them that if after having solemnly promised to go, as 
they had done, they now failed to make the attempt, they 
would in effect brand themselves with cowardice, and 
might well sit down, fold their arms, and acknowledge 
themselves fit only to be slaves. This detestable cliarac- 
ter all were unwilling to assume. Every man except 
Sandy (he, much to our regret, withdrew) stood firm, and 
at our last meeting we pledged ourselves afresh, and in 
the most solemn manner, that at the time appointed we 
would certainly start on our long journey for a free coun- 
try. This meeting was in the middle of the week, at tlie 
end of which we were to start. 

Early on the appointed morning we went as usual to the 
field, but with hearts that beat quickly and anxiously. Any 
one intimately acquainted with us might have seen that all 
was not well with us, and that some monster lingered in 
our thoughts. Our work that morning was the same as 
it had been for several days past — drawing out and 
spreading manure. While thus engaged, I had a sudden 
presentiment, which flashed upon me like lightning in a 
dark night, revealing to the lonely traveler the gulf before 
and the enemy behind. I instantly turned to Sandy Jen- 
kins, who was near me, and said : " Sandy ^ ive are 
betrayed ! — something has just told me so." I felt as sure 
of it as if the officers were in sight. Sandy said : "Man, 
dat is strange ; but I f^l just as you do." If my mother 
— then long in her gmve — had appeared before me and 
told me that we were betrayed, I could not at that mo- 
ment have felt more certain of the fact. 

In a few minutes after this, the long, low, and distant 
notes of the horn summoned us from the field to break- 


fast. I felt as one may be supposed to feel before being 
led forth to be executed for some great offense. I wanted 
no breakfast, but I went with the other slaves toward the 
liouse for form's sake. My feelings were not disturbed 
as to the riglit of running away ; on that point I had no 
misgiving whatever, but from a sense of the consequences 
of failure. 

In thirty minutes after that vivid impression came the 
apprehended crash. On reaching the house, and glancing 
my eye toward the lane gate, the worst was at once made 
known. The lane gate to Mr. Freeland's house was 
nearly half a mile from the door, and much shaded by 
the heavy wood which bordered the main road. I was, how- 
ever, able to descry four white men and two colored men 
approaching. The white men were on horseback, and the 
colored men were walking behind, and seemed to be tied. 
''It is indeed all over with us ; we are surely hetrayed^"^ I 
thought to myself. I became composed, or at least com- 
paratively so, and calmly awaited the result. I watched 
the ill-omened company entering the gate. Successful 
flight was impossible, and I made up my mind to stand 
and meet the evil, whatever it might be, for I was not 
altogether without a slight hope that things might turn 
differently from what I had at first feared. In a few 
moments in came Mr. William Hamilton, riding very 
rapidly and evidently much excited. He was in the 
habit of riding very slowly, and was seldom known to 
gallop his horse. This time his horse was nearly at full 
speed, causing the dust to roll thick behind him. Mr. 
Hamilton, though one of the most resolute men in the 
whole neighborhood, was, nevertheless, a remarkably 
mild-spoken man, and even when greatly excited his lan- 
guage was cool and circumspect. He came to the door, 
and inquired if Mr. Frceland was in. I told him that 
Mr. Freeland was at the barn. Off the old gentleman 


rode toward the barn, with unwonted speed. In a few 
moments Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Freeland came down 
from the barn to the house, and just as they made their 
appearance in the front-yard, three men, who proved to be 
constables, came dashing into the lane on horse-back, as 
if summoned by a sign requiring quick work. A few 
seconds brought them into tlie front-yard, where they 
hastily dismounted and tied their horses. This done, they 
joined Mr. Freeland and Mr. Hamilton, who were stand- 
ing a short distance from tlie kitchen. A few moments 
were spent as if in consulting how to proceed, and then 
the whole party walked up to the kitchen-door. There 
was now no one in the kitchen but myself and John Har- 
ris ; Henry and Sandy were yet in the barn. Mr. Free- 
land came inside the kitchen-door, and, with an agitated 
voice, called me by name, and told me to come forward ; 
that there were some gentlemen who wished to see me. 
I stepped toward them at the door, and asked what they 
wanted ; when the constables grabbed me, and told me 
that I had better not resist ; that I had been in a scrape, 
or was said to have been in one ; that they were merely 
going to take me where I could be examined ; that 
they would have me brought before my master at St. 
Michaels, and if the evidence against me was not 
proved true I should be acquitted. I was now firmly tied, 
and completely at the mercy of my captors. Resistance 
was idle. They were five in number, armed to the teeth. 
When they had secured me, they turned to John Harris, 
and in a few moments succeeded in tying him as firmly 
as they had tied me. They next turned toward Henry 
Harris, who had now returned from the barn. "Cross 
your hands," said the constable to Henry. "I won't," 
said Henry, in a voice so firm and clear, and in a manner 
so determined, as for a moment to arrest all proceedings. 
"Won't you cross your hands ?" said Tom Graham, the 

208 henry's resistance. 

constable. "iVb, / worbt^'' said Henry, with increasing 
emphasis. Mr. Hamilton, Mr. Freeland, and the officers 
now came near to Henry. Two of the constables drew 
out their shining pistols, and swore, by the name of God, 
tliat he should cross his hands or they would shoot him 
down. Each of these hired ruffians now cocked their 
pistols, and, with fingers apparently on the triggers, pre- 
sented their deadly weapons to the breast of the unarmed 
slave, saying, if he did not cross his hands, they would 

"blow his d d heart out of him." "'Shoot me, shoot 

mg," said Henry ; "you can't kill me but once. Shoot, 
shoot, and be damned ! I won't be tied !" This the brave 
fellow said in a voice as defiant and heroic in its tone as 
was the language itself; and at the moment of saying this, 
with the pistols at his very breast, he quickly raised his 
arms, and dashed them from the puny hands of his 
assassins, the weapons flying in all directions. Now 
came the struggle. All hands rushed upon the brave 
fellow, and after beating him for some time they suc- 
ceeded in overpowering and tying him. Henry put me to 
shame ; he fought, and fought bravely. John and I had 
made no resistance. The fact is, I never saw much use of 
fighting where there w^as no reasonable probability of 
whipping anybody. Yet there was something almost 
providential in the resistance made by Henry. But for 
that resistance every soul of us would have been hurried 
off to the far South. Just a moment previous to the 
trouble with Henry, Mr. Hamilton mildly said, — and this 
gave me the unmistakable clue to the cause of our arrest, 
— " Perhaps we had now better make a search for those 
protections, which we understand Frederick has written 
for himself and the rest." Had these passes been found, 
they would have been point-blank evidence against us, 
and would have confirmed all the statements of our 
betrayer. Thanks to the resistance of Henry, the excite- 

Driven to Jail for Kunning Away. 


ment produced by tlie scuffle drew all attention in that 
direction, and I succeeded in flinging my pass, unob- 
served, into the fire. The confusion attendant on the 
scuffle, and the apprehension of still further trouble, per- 
haps, led our captors to forego, for the time, any search 
for '^those protections which Frederick was said to have 
written for his companions"; so we were not yet con- 
victed of the purpose to run away, and it was evident 
that there was some doubt on the part of all whether we 
had been guilty of such purpose. 

Just as we were all completely tied, and about ready to 
start toward St. Michaels, and thence to jail, Mrs. Betsey 
Freeland (mother to William, who was much attached, 
after the Southern fashion, to Henry and John, they hav- 
ing been reared from childhood in her house) came to 
the kitchen-door with her hands full of biscuits, for we 
had not had our breakfast that morning, and divided 
them between Henry and John. This done, the lady 
made the following parting address to me, pointing her 
bony finger at me : ''You devil ! you yellow devil ! It 
was you who put it into the heads of Henry and John to 
run away. But for ^ou, you long-legged^ yellow devil, 
Henry and John would never have thought of running 
away." I gave the lady a look which called forth from 
her a scream of mingled wrath and terror, as she 
slammed the kitchen-door and went in, leaving me, with 
the rest, in hands W harsh as her own broken voice. 

Could' the kind reader have been riding along the main 
road to or from Easton that morning, his eye would have 
met a painful sighlh He would have seen five young men, 
guilty of no crime save that of preferring liberty to slav- 
ery^ drawn along the public highway — firmly bound 
together, tramping through dust and heat, bare-footed 
and bare-headed — fastened to three strong horses, whose 
riders were armed with pistols and daggers, on their way 


to prison like felons, and suffering every possible insult 
from the crowds of idle, vulgar people who clustered 
round, and heartlessly made their failure to escape the 
occasion for all manner of ribaldry and sport. As I 
looked upon this crowd of vile persons, and saw myself 
and friends thus assailed and persecuted, I could not help 
seeing the fulfillment of Sandy's dream. I was in the 
hands of moral vultures, and held in their sharp talons, 
and was being hurried away toward Easton, in a south- 
easterly direction, amid the jeers of new birds of the 
same feather, through every neighborhood we passed. 
It seemed to me that everybody was out, and knew the 
cause of our arrest, and awaited our passing in order to 
feast their vindictive eyes on our misery. 

Some said ''I ought to hehanged,^^ and others, "/ ought 
to he burned " ; others, I ought to have the "hide" taken 
off my back ; while no one gave us a kind word or sympa- 
thizing look, except the poor slaves who were lifting their 
heavy hoes, and who cautiously glanced at us througli the 
post-and-rail fences, behind which they were at work. 
Our sufferings that morning can be more easily imagined 
than described. Our hopes were all blasted at one blow. 
The cruel injustice, the victorious crime, and the help- 
lessness of innocence, led me to ask in my ignorance and 
weakness : Where is now the God of justice and mercy ? 
and why have these wicked men the power thus to 
trample upon our rights, and to insult our feelings ? 
and yet in the next moment came the consoling thought, 
"the day of the oppressor will come at last." Of one 
thing I could be glad : not one of my dear friends upon 
whom I had brought this great calamity, either by word 
or look, reproached me for having led them into it. We 
were a band of brothers, and never dearer to each other 
than now. The thought which gave us the most pain 
was the probable separation which would now take 


place in case we were sold off to the far South, as we 
were likely to be. While the constables were looking 
forward, Henry and I being fastened together, could 
occasionally exchange a word without being observed by 
the kidnappers who had us in charge. "What shall I do 
with my pass ?" said Henry. "Eat it with your biscuit," 
said I ; "it won't do to tear it up." We were now near 
St. Michaels. The direction concerning the passes was 
passed around, and executed. "Own nothing," said I. 
"Own nothing" was passed round, enjoined, and assented 
to. Our confidence in each other was unshaken, and we 
were quite resolved to succeed or fail together ; as miich 
after the calamity which had befallen us as before. 

On reaching St. Michaels we underwent a sort of exam- 
ination at my master's store, and it was evident to my 
mind that Master Thomas suspected the truthfulness of 
the evidence upon which they had acted in arresting us, 
and that he only affected, to some extent, the positiveness 
with which he asserted our guilt. There was nothing 
said by any of our company which could, in any manner, 
prejudice our cause, and there was hope yet that we 
should be able to return to our homes, if for nothing else, at 
least to find out the guilty man or woman who betrayed 

To this end we all denied that we had been guilty of 
intended flight. Master Thomas said that the evidence 
he had of our intention to run away was strong enough to 
hang us in a case of murder. "But," said I, "the cases 
are not equal ; if murder were committed, — the thing is 
done ! but we have not run away. Where is the evidence 
against us? We were quietly at our work." I talked thus 
with unusual freedom, to bring out the evidence against 
us, for we all wanted, above all things, to know who had 
betrayed us, that we might have something tangible on 
which to pour our execrations. From something which 


dropped, in the course of the talk, it appeared that there 
was but one witness against us, and that that witness 
could not be produced. Master Thomas would not tell us 
who his informant was, but we suspected, and suspected 
one person only. Several circumstances seemed to point 
Sandy out as our betrayer. His entire knowledge of our 
plans, his participation in them, his withdrawal from us, 
his dream and his simultaneous presentiment that we 
were betrayed, the taking us and the leaving him, were 
calculated to turn suspicion toward him, and yet we could 
not suspect him. We all loved him too well to think it 
possible that he could have betrayed us. So we rolled the 
guilt on other shoulders. 

We were literally dragged, that morning, behind 
horses, a distance of fifteen miles, and placed in the 
Easton jail. We were glad to reach the end of our 
journey, for our pathway had been full of insult and mor- 
tification. Such is the power of public opinion, that it is 
hard, even for the innocent, to feel the happy consolation 
of innocence when they fall under the maledictions of 
this power. How could we regard ourselves as in the 
right, when all about us denounced us as criminals, and 
had the power and the disposition to treat us as such. 

In jail we were placed under the care of Mr. Joseph 
Graham, the sheriff of the county. Henry and John and 
myself were placed in one room, and Henry Bailey and 
Charles Roberts in another by themselves. This sepa- 
ration was intended to deprive us of the advantage of 
concert, and to prevent trouble in jail. 

Once shut up, a new set of tormentors came upon us. 
A swarm of imps in human shape — the slave-traders 
and agents of slave-traders — who gathered in every 
country town of the State watching for chances to buy 
human flesh (as buzzards watch for carrion), flocked in 
upon us to ascertain if our masters had placed us in jail 


to be sold. Such a set of debased and villainous creatures 
I never saw before and hope never to see again. I felt 
as if surrounded by a pack of fiends fresh from perdition. 
They laughed, leered, and grinned at us, saying, "Ah, 
boys, we have got you, haven't we ? So you were going to 
make your escape? Where were you going to?" After 
taunting us in this way as long as they liked, they one by 
one subjected us to an examination, with a view to ascer- 
tain our value, feeling our arms and legs and shaking us 
by the shoulders, to see if we were sound and healthy, 
impudently asking us, " how we would like to have them 
for masters ? " To such questions we were quite dumb 
(much to their annoyance). One fellow told me, " if he 
had me he would cut the devil out of me pretty quick." 

These negro-buyers were very offensive to the genteel 
southern Christian public. They were looked upon in 
respectable Maryland society as necessary but detesta- 
ble characters. Asa class, they were hardened ruffians, 
made such by nature and by occupation. Yes, they were 
the legitimate fruit of slavery, and were second in vil- 
lainy only to the slaveholders themselves who made such 
a class possible. They were mere hucksters of the slave 
produce of Maryland and Virginia — coarse, cruel, and 
swaggering bullies, whose very breathing was of blas- 
phemy and blood. 

Aside from these slave-buyers who infested the prison 
from time to time, our quarters were much more com- 
fortable than we had any right to expect them to be. 
Our allowance of food was small and coarse, but our 
room was the best in the jail — neat and spacious, and 
with nothing about it necessarily reminding us of being 
in prison but its heavy locks and bolts and the black iron 
lattice-work at the windows. We were prisoners of state 
compared with most slaves who were put into that Easton 
jail. But the place was not one of contentment. Bolts, 


bars, and grated windows are not acceptable to freedom- 
loving people of any color. The suspense, too, was pain- 
ful. Every step on the stairway was listened to, in the 
hope that the comer would cast a ray of light on our fate. 
We would have given the hair of our heads for half a 
dozen words with one of the waiters in Sol. Lowe's hotel. 
Such waiters were in the way of hearing, at the table, 
the probable course of things. We could see them flit- 
ting about in their white jackets in front of this hotel, 
but could speak to none of them. 

Soon after the holidays were over, contrary to all our 
expectations, Messrs. Hamilton and Freeland came up to 
Easton ; not to make a bargain with " Georgia traders," 
nor to send us up to Austin Woldfolk, as was usual in the 
case of runaway-slaves, but to release Charles, Henry 
Harris, Henry Bailey, and John Harris from prison, and 
this, too, without the infliction of a single blow. I was 
left alone in prison. The innocent had been taken and 
the guilty left. My friends were separated from me, and 
apparently forever. This circumstance caused me more 
pain than any other incident connected with our capture 
and imprisonment. Thirty-nine lashes on n^ naked and 
bleeding back would have been joyfully borne, in prefer- 
ence to this separation from these, the friends of my 
youth. And yet I could not but feel that I was the vic- 
tim of something like justice. Why should these young 
men, who were led into this scheme by me, suffer as 
much as the instigator? I felt glad that they were 
released from prison, and from the dread prospect of a 
life (or death I should rather say) in the rice-swamps. 
It is due to the noble Henry to say that he was almost as 
reluctant to leave the prison with me in it as he had been 
to be tied and dragged to prison. But he and we all 
knew that we should, in all the likelihoods of the case, be 
separated, in the event of being sold ; and since we were 


completely in the hands of our owners they concluded it 
would be best to go peaceably home. 

Not until this last separation, dear reader, had I 
touched those profounder depths of desolation which it is 
the lot of slaves often to reach. I was solitary and alone 
within the walls of a stone prison, left to a fate of life- 
long misery. I had hoped and expected much, for months 
before, but my hopes and expectations were now withered 
and blasted. The ever-dreaded slave life in Georgia, 
Louisiana, and Alabama — from which escape was next 
to impossible — now in my loneliness stared me in the 
face. The possibility of ever becoming anything but an 
abject slave, a mere machine in the hands of an owner, 
had now fled, and it seemed to me it had fled forever. 
A life of living death, beset with the innumerable horrors 
of the cotton- field and the sugar-plantation, seemed to be 
my doom. The fiends who rushed into the prison when 
we were first put there continued to visit me and ply me 
with questions and tantalizing remarks. I was insulted, 
but helpless ; keenly alive to the demands of justice and 
liberty, but with^no means of asserting them. To talk 
to those imps about justice or mercy would have been as 
absurd as to reason with bears and tigers. Lead and 
steel were the only arguments that they were capable of 
appreciating, as the events of the subsequent years have 

After remaining in this life of misery and despair 
about a week, which seemed a month. Master Thomas, 
very much to my surprise and greatly to my relief, came 
to the prison and took me out, for the purpose, as he said, 
of sending me to Alabama with a friend of his, who would 
emancipate me at the end of eight years. I was glad 
enough to get out of prison, but 1 had no faith in the 
story that his friend would emancipate me. Besides, I 
had never heard of his having a friend in Alabama, and 


I took the aiiiiouiicemGiit simply as an easy and comforta- 
ble method of sliipping me off to the far south. There 
was a little scandal, too, connected with the idea of one 
Christian selling another to Georgia traders, while it was 
deemed every way proper for them to sell to others. I 
thought this friend in Alabama was an invention to meet 
this difficulty, for Master Thomas was quite jealous of 
his religious reputation, however unconcerned he might 
have been about his real Christian character. In these 
remarks it is possible I do him injustice. He certainly 
did not exert his power over me as he might have done 
in the case, but acted, upon the whole, very generously, 
considering the nature of my offense. He had the power 
and the provocation to send me, without reserve, into tlie 
very Everglades of Florida, beyond the remotest hope of 
emancipation; and his refusal to exercise that power 
must be set down to his credit. 

After lingering about St. Michaels a few days, and no 
friend from Alabama appearing. Master Thomas decided 
to send me back again to Baltimore, to live with his 
brother Hugh, with whom he was now at peace ; possibly 
he became so by his profession of religion at the camp- 
meeting in the Bay-side. Master Thomas told me he 
wished me to go to Baltimore and learn a trade ; and 
that if I behaved myself properly he would emancipate 
me at twenty-five. Thanks for this one beam of hope in 
the future ! The promise had but one fault — it seemed 
too good to be true. 



Nothing lost in my attempt to run away — Comrades at home — Rea- 
sons for sending me away — Return to Baltimore — Tommy changed 
— Caulking in Gardiner's ship-yard — Desperate fight — Its causes — 
— Conflict between white and black labor — Outrage — Testimony — 
Master Hugh — Slavery in Baltimore — My condition improves — 
— New associations — Slaveholder's right to the slave's wages — How 
to make a discontented slave. 

WELL, dear reader, I am not, as you have probably 
inferred, a loser by the general upstir described 
in the foregoing chapter. The little domestic revolution, 
notwithstanding the sudden snub it got by the treachery 
of somebody, did not, after all, end so disastrously as 
when in the iron cage at Easton I conceived it would. 
The prospect from that point did look about as dark as 
any that ever cast its gloom over the vision of the anxious, 
out-looking human spirit. " All's well that ends well ! " 
My affectionate friends, Henry and John Harris, are still 
with Mr. Freeland. Charles Roberts and Henry Bailey 
are safe at their homes. I have not, therefore, anything 
to regret on their account. Their masters have merci- 
fully forgiven them, probably on the ground suggested in 
the spirited little speech of Mrs. Freeland, made to me 
just before leaving for the jail. My friends had nothing 
to regret, either: for while they were watched more 
closely, they were doubtless treated more kindly than 
before, and got new assurances that they should some day 
be legally emancipated, provided their behavior from that 
time forward should make them deserving. Not a blow 




was struck any one of them. As for Master Freeland, 
good soul, he did not believe we were intending to run 
away at all. Having given — as he thought — no occasion 
to his boys to leave him, he could not think it probable 
that they had entertained a design so grievous. This, 
however, was not the view taken of the matter by " Mas' 
Billy," as we used to call the soft-spoken but crafty and 
resolute Mr. William Hamilton. He had no doubt that 
the crime had been meditated, and regarding me as the 
instigator of it, he frankly told Master Thomas that he 
must remove me from that neighborhood or he would 
shoot me. He would not have one so dangerous as 
" Frederick " tampering with his slaves. William Hamil- 
ton was not a man whose threat might be safely disre- 
garded. I have no doubt he would have proved as good 
as his word, had the warning given been disregarded. 
He was furious at the thought of such a piece of high- 
handed theft as we were about to perpetrate — the stealing 
of our own bodies and souls. The feasibility of the plan, 
too, could the first steps have been taken, was marvel- 
ously plain. Besides, this was a new idea, this use of 
the Bay. Slaves escaping, until now, had taken to the 
woods ; they had never dreamed of profaning and abusing 
the waters of the noble Chesapeake by making them the 
highway from slavery to freedom. Here w^as a broad 
road leading to the destruction of slavery, which had 
hitherto been looked upon as a wall of security by the 
slaveholders. But Master Billy could not get Mr. Free- 
land to see matters precisely as he did, nor could he get 
Master Thomas, excited as he was. The latter, I must 
say it to his credit, showed much humane feeling, and 
atoned for much that had been harsh, cruel, and unrea- 
sonable in his former treatment of me and of others. 
My " Cousin Tom " told me that while I was in jail 
Master Thomas was very unhappy, and that the night 


before his going up to release me he had walked the floor 
nearly all night, evincing great distress ; that very tempt- 
ing offers had been made to him by the negro-traders, 
but he had rejected them all, saying that money could not 
tempt him to sell me to the far south. I can easily believe 
all this, for he seemed quite reluctant to send me away 
at all. He told me that he only consented to do so because 
of the very strong prejudice against me in the neighbor- 
hood, and that he feared for my safety if I remained 

Thus, after three years spent in the country, roughing 
it in the field, and experiencing all sorts of hardships, I 
was again permitted to return to Baltimore, the very place 
of all others, short of a free State, where I most desired 
to live. The three years spent in the country had made 
some difference in me, and in the household of Master 
Hugh. " Little Tommy " was no longer little Tommy ; 
and I was not the slender lad who had left the Eastern 
Shore just three years before. The loving relations 
between Master Tommy and myself were broken up. He 
was no longer dependent on me for protection, but felt 
himself a man^ with other and more suitable associates. 
In childhood he had considered me scarcely inferior to 
himself, — certainly quite as good as any other boy with 
whom he played ; but the time had come when \n^ friend 
must be his slave. So we were cold to each other, and 
parted. It was a sad thing to me, that loving each other 
as we had done, we must now take different roads. To 
him a thousand avenues were open. Education had made 
him acquainted with all the treasures of the world, and 
liberty had flung open the gates thereunto ; but I who had 
attended him seven vears, had watched over him with the 
care of a big brother, fighting his battles in the street, 
and shielding him from harm to an extent which induced 
his mother to say, ''Oh, Tommy is always safe when he 


is with Freddy '' — I must be confined to a single condi- 
tion. He had grown and become a man: I, though grown 
to the stature of manhood, must all my life remain a 
minor — a mere boy. Thomas Auld, junior, obtained a 
situation on board the brig Tweed, and went to sea. I 
have since heard of his death. 

There were few persons to whom I was more sincerely 
attached than to him. 

Very soon after I went to Baltimore to live, Master 
Hugh succeeded in getting me hired to Mr. William 
Gardiner, an extensive ship-builder on Fell's Point. I 
was placed there to learn to calk, a trade of which I 
already had some knowledge, gained while in Mr. Hugh 
Auld's ship-yard. Gardiner's, however, proved a very 
unfavorable place for the accomplishment of Ihe desired 
object. Mr. Gardiner was that season engaged in build- 
ing two large man-of-war vessels, professedly for the 
Mexican government. These vessels were to be launched 
in the month of July of tliat year, and in failure thereof 
Mr. Gardiner would forfeit a very considerable sum of 
money. So, when I entered the ship-yard, all was hurry 
and driving. There were in the yard about one hundred 
men ; of these, seventy or eighty were regular carpenters 
— privileged men. There was no time for a raw hand to 
learn anything. Every man had to do that which he 
knew how to do, and in entering the yard Mr. Gardiner 
had directed me to do whatever the carpenters told me to 
do. This was placing me at the beck and call of about 
seventy-five men. I was to regard all these as my mas- 
ters. Their word was to be my law. My situation was 
a trying one. I was called a dozen ways in the space of 
a single minute. I needed a dozen pairs of hands. Three 
or four voices would strike my ear at the same moment. 
It was " Fred, come help me to cant this timber here," — 
"Fred, come carry this timber yonder," — "Fred, bring 


that roller here," — " Fred, go get a fresh can of water," 
"Fred, come help saw off the end of this timber," — ■ 
"Fred, go quick and get the crow-bar," — "Fred, hold on 
the end of this fall," — "Fred, go to the blacksmith's shop 
and get a new punch," — " Halloo, Fred ! run and bring me 
a cold-chisel," — "I say, Fred, bear a hand, and get up a 
fire under the steam-box as quick as lightning," — " Hullo, 
nigger! come turn this grindstone," — "Come, come; 
move, move ! and howse this timber forward," — " I say, 
darkey, blast your eyes ! why don't you heat up some 
pitch?" — "Halloo! halloo! halloo! (three voices at the 
same time)" — "Come here; go there; hold on where 
you are. D — n you, if you move I'll knock your brains 
out ! " Such, my dear reader, is a glance at the school 
which was *mine during the first eight months of my stay 
at Gardiner's ship-yard. At the end of eight months 
Master Hugh refused longer to allow me to remain with 
Gardiner. The circumstance which led to this refusal 
was the committing of an outrage upon me, by the white 
apprentices of the ship-yard. The fight was a desperate 
one, and I came out of it shockingly mangled. I was 
cut and bruised in sundry places, and my left eye was 
nearly knocked out of its socket. The facts which led to 
this brutal outrage upon me illustrate a phase of slavery 
which was destined to become an important element in 
the overthrow of the slave system, and I may therefore 
state them with some minuteness. That phase was this 
— the conflict of slavery with the interests of white 
mechanics and laborers. In the country this conflict was 
not so apparent ; but in cities, such as Baltimore, Rich- 
mond, New Orleans, Mobile, etc., it was seen pretty clearly. 
The slaveholders, with a craftiness peculiar to themselves, 
by encouraging the enmity of the poor laboring white 
man against the blacks, succeeded in making the said 
white man almost as much a slave as the black slave him- 


self. The difference between the white slave and the 
black slave was this: the latter belonged to one slave- 
holder, and the former belonged to the slaveholders col- 
lectively. The white slave had taken from him by indi- 
rection what the black slave had taken from him directly 
and without ceremony. Both were plundered, and by the 
same plunderers. The slave was robbed by his master of 
all his earnings, above wliat was required for his bare 
physical necessities, and the white laboring man was 
robbed by the slave system of the just results of his 
labor, because he was flung into competition with a class 
of laborers who worked without wages. The slaveholders 
blinded them to this competition by keeping alive their 
prejudice against the slaves as men — not against them as 
slaves. They appealed to their pride, often denouncing 
emancipation as tending to place the w^hite working man 
on an equality with negroes, and by this means they suc- 
ceeded in drawing off the minds of the poor w^hites from 
the real fact, that by the rich slave master they were 
already regarded as but a single remove from equality 
with the slave. The impression was cunningly made that 
slavery was the only power that could prevent the labor- 
ing w^iite man from falling to the level of the slave's 
poverty and degradation. To make this enmity deep and 
broad between the slave and the poor white man, the 
latter was allowed to abuse and whip the former without 
hindrance. But, as I have said, this state of affairs pre- 
vailed mostly in the country. In the city of Baltimore 
there were not unfrequent murmurs that educating slaves 
to be mechanics might, in the end, give slave-masters 
power to dispense altogether with the services of the poor 
white man. But with characteristic dread of offending 
the slaveholders, these poor white mechanics in Mr. 
Gardiner's ship-yard, instead oi applying the natural, 
honest remedy for the apprehended evil, and objecting at 


once to work there by the side of slaves, made a cowanl 
attack upon the free colored mechanics, saying they were 
eating the bread which should be eaten by American free- 
men, and swearing that they would not work with them. 
The feeling was really against having their labor brought 
into competition with that of the colored freeman, and 
aimed to prevent him from serving himself, in the even- 
ino' of life, with the trade with which he had served his 
master, during the more vigorous portion of his days. 
Had they succeeded in driving the black freemen out of 
the ship-yard, they would have determined also upon the 
removal of the black slaves. The feeling was very bitter 
toward all colored people in Baltimore about this time 
(1836), and they — free and slave — suffered all manner 
of insult and wrong. 

Until a very little while before I went there, white and 
black carpenters worked side by side in the ship-yards of 
Mr. Gardiner, Mr. Duncan, Mr. Walter Price, and Mr. 
Robb. Nobody seemed to see any impropriety in it. 
Some of the blacks were first-rate workmen and were 
given jobs requiring the highest skill. All at once, how- 
ever, the white carpenters knocked off and swore that 
tliey would no longer work on the same stage with negroes. 
Taking advantage of the heavy contract resting upon Mr. 
Gardiner to have the vessels for Mexico ready to launch 
in July, and of the difficulty of getting other hands at 
that season of the year, they swore they would not strike 
another blow for him unless he would discharge his free 
colored workmen. Now, although this movement did not 
extend to me inform^ it did reach me in fact. The spirit 
which it awakened was one of malice and bitterness 
toward colored people generally^ and I suffered with the 
rest, and suffered severely. My fellow-apprentices very 
soon began to feel it to be degrading to work with me. 
They began to put on high looks and to talk contemptu- 


isly and maliciously of " the niggers," saying that they 
would take the " country," that they " ought to be killed." 
Encouraged by workmen who, knowing me to be a slave, 
made no issue with Mr. Gardiner about my being there, 
these young men did their utmost to make it impossible 
for me to stay. They seldom called me to do anything 
without coupling the call with a curse, and Edward North, 
the biggest in everything, rascality included, ventured to 
strike me, whereupon I picked him up and threw him into 
the dock. Whenever any of them struck me I struck 
back again, regardless of consequences. I could manage 
any of them singly^, and so long as I could keep them 
from combining I got on very well. In the conflict which 
ended my stay at Mr. Gardiner's I was beset by four of 
them at once — Ned North, Ned Hayes, Bill Stewart, and 
Tom Humphreys. Two of them were as large as myself, 
and they came near killing me, in broad daylight. One 
came in front, armed with a brick ; there was one at each 
side and one behind, and they closed up all around me. 
I was struck on all sides ; and while I was attending to 
those in front I received a blow on my head from behind, 
dealt with a heavy hand-spike. I was completely stunned 
by the blow, and fell heavily on the ground among the 
timbers. Taking advantage of my fall they rushed upon 
me and began to pound me with their fists. I let them 
lay on for awhile after I came to myself, with a view of 
gaining strength. They did me little damage so far; but 
finally getting tired of that sport I gave a sudden surge, 
and despite their weight I rose to my hands and knees. 
Just as I did this one of their number planted a blow 
with his boot in my left eye, wdiich for a time seemed to 
have burst my eye-ball. When they saw my eye com- 
pletely closed, my face covered with blood, and I stagger- 
ing under the stunning blows they had given me, they 
left me. As soon as I gathered strength I picked up the 


hand-spike and madly enough attempted to pursue them ; 
but here the carpenters interfered and compelled me to 
give up my pursuit. It was impossible to stand against 
so many. 

Dear reader, you can hardly believe the statement, but 
it is true, and therefore I write it down ; no fewer than 
fifty white men stood by and saw this brutal and shame- 
ful outrage committed, and not a man of them all interposed 
a single word of mercy. There were four against one, 
and that one's face was beaten and battered most horribly, 
and no one said, ''that is enough;" but some cried out, 

"Kill him ! kill him ! kill the d n nigger ! knock 

his brains out ! he struck a white person ! ''^ I mention 
this inhuman outcry to show the character of the men 
and the spirit of the times at Gardiner's ship-yard ; and, 
indeed, in Baltimore generally, in 1836. As I look back 
to this period, I am almost amazed that I was not mur- 
dered outright, so murderous was the spirit which pre- 
vailed there. On two other occasions while there I came 
near losing my life, on one of which I was driving bolts 
in the hold through the keelson with Hays. In its course 
the bolt bent. Hays cursed me, and said that it was my 
blow which bent the bolt. I denied this and charged it 
upon him. In a fit of rage he seized an adze and darted 
toward me. I met him with a maul and parried his blow, 
or I should have lost my life. 

After the united attack of North, Stewart, Hayes, and 
Humphreys, finding that the carpenters were as bitter 
toward me as the apprentices, and that the latter were 
probably set on by the former, I found my only chance 
for life was in flight. I succeeded in getting away with- 
out an additional blow. To strike a white man was death 
by lynch law, in Gardiner's ship-yard ; nor was there 
much of any other law toward the colored people at that 
time in any other part of Maryland. 


After making my escape from the ship-yard I went 
straight home and related my story to Master Hugh ; and 
to his credit I say it, that his conduct, though he was 
not a religious man, was every way more humane than 
that of his brother Thomas, when I went to him in a 
somewhat similar plight, from the hands of his " Brother 
Edward Covey." Master Hugh listened attentively to my 
narration of the circumstances leading to the ruffianly 
assault, and gave many evidences of his strong indigna- 
tion at what was done. He was a rough but manly- 
hearted fellow, and at this time his best nature showed 

The heart of my once kind mistress Sophia was again 
melted in pity towards me. My puffed-out eye and my 
scarred and blood-covered face moved the dear lady to 
tears. She kindly drew a chair by me, and with friendly 
and consoling words, she took water and washed the 
blood from my face. No mother's hand could have been 
more tender than hers. She bound up my head and 
covered my wounded eye with a lean piece of fresh beef. 
It was almost compensation for all I suffered that it 
occasioned the manifestation once more of the originally 
characteristic kindness of my mistress. Her affectionate 
heart was not yet dead, though much hardened by time 
and circumstances. 

As for Master Hugh he was furious, and gave expres- 
sion to his feelings in the forms of speech usual in that 
locality. He poured curses on the whole of the ship-yard 
company, and swore that he would have satisfaction. His 
indignation was really strong and lK)althy ; but unfortu- 
nately it resulted from the thought that his rights of 
property, in my person, had not been respected, more 
than from any sense of the outrage perpetrated upon me 
as a man. I had reason to think this from the fact that 
he could, himself, beat and mangle when it suited him 
to do so. 


Bent on having satisfaction, as he said, just as soon as 
I got a little the better of my bruises Master Hugli took 
me to Esquire Watson's office on Bond street, Fell's 
Point, with a view to procuring the arrest of those who 
had assaulted me. He related the outrage to the magis- 
trate as I had related it to him, and seemed to expect 
that a warrant would at once be issued for the arrest 
of the lawless ruffians. Mr. Watson heard all he had to 
say, then coolly inquired, " Mr. Auld, who saw this 
assault of which you speak ? " " It was done, sir, in the 
presence of a ship-yard full of hands." " Sir," said Mr. 
Watson, " I am sorry, but I cannot move in this matter, 
except upon the oath of white witnesses." " But here's 
the boy ; look at his head and face," said the excited 
Master Hugh ; 'Hhey show what has been done." But 
Watson insisted that he was not authorized to do any- 
thing, unless white witnesses of the transaction would 
come forward and testify to what had taken place. He 
could issue no warrant on my word, against white per- 
sons, and if I had been killed in the presence of a thou- 
sand blacks, their testimony combined would have been 
insufficient to condemn a single murderer. Master Hugh 
was compelled to say, for once, that this state of things 
was too bad, and he left the office of the magistrate 

Of course it was impossible to get any white man to 
testify against my assailants. The carpenters saw what 
was done ; but the actors were but the agents of their 
malice, and did only what the carpenters sanctioned. 
They had cried with one accord, " Kill the nigger ! kill 
the nigger ! " Even those who may have pitied me, if any 
such were among them, lacked the moral courage to 
volunteer their evidence. The slightest show of sym- 
pathy or justice toward a person of color was denounced 
as abolitionism ; and the name of abolitionist subjected 


its hearer to frightful liabihties. " D n abolitionists," 

and " kill the niggers," were the watch-words of the 
foul-mouthed rufhans of those days. Nothing was done, 
and probably there would not have been had I been killed 
in the affray. The laws and the morals of the Christian 
city of Baltimore afforded no protection to the sable 
denizens of that city. 

Master Hugh, on finding he could get no redress for 
the cruel wrong, withdrew me from the employment of 
Mr. Gardiner and took me into his own family, Mrs. 
Auld kindly taking care of me and dressing my wounds 
until they were healed and I was ready to go to work 

While I was on the Eastern Shore, Master Hugh had 
met with reverses which overthrew his business ; and he 
had given up ship-building in his own yard, on the City 
Block, and was now acting as foreman of Mr. Walter 
Price. The best he could do for me was to take me into 
Mr. Price's yard, and afford me the facilities there for 
completing the trade which I began to learn at Gardiner's. 
Here I rapidly became expert in the use of calkers' tools, 
and in the course of a single year, I was able to com- 
mand the highest wages paid to journeymen calkers in 

The reader will observe that I was now of some pecun- 
iary value to my master. During the busy season I was 
bringing six and seven dollars per week. I have some- 
times brought him as much as nine dollars a week, for 
wages were a dollar and a half per day. 

After learning to calk, I sought my own employment, 
made my own contracts, and collected my own earnings 
— giving Master Hugh no trouble in any part of the trans- 
actions to which I was a party. 

Here, then, were better days for the Eastern Shore 
dave. I was free from the vexatious assaults of the 


apprentices at Gardiner's, and free from the perils of 
plantation life, and once more in favorable condition to 
increase my little stock of education, which had been at 
a dead stand since my removal from Baltimore. I had 
on the Eastern Shore been only a teacher, when in com- 
pany with other slaves, but now there were colored per- 
sons here who could instruct me. Many of the young 
calkers could read, write, and cipher. Some of them 
had high notions about mental improvement, and the 
free ones on Fell's Point organized what they called the 
" East Baltimore Mental Improvement Society." To this 
society, notwithstanding it was intended that only free 
persons should attach themselves, I was admitted, and 
was several times assigned a prominent part in its 
debates. I owe much to the society of these young men. 
The reader already knows enough of the ill effects of 
good treatment on a slave to anticipate what was how 
the case in my improved condition. It was not long 
before I began to show signs of disquiet with slavery, and 
to look around for means to get out of it by the shortest 
route. I was living among freemen^ and was in all 
respects equal to them by nature and attainments. Why 
should I he a slave ? There was no reason why I should 
be the thrall of any man. Besides, I was now getting, 
as I have said, a dollar and fifty cents per day. I con- 
tracted for it, worked for it, collected it ; it was paid to me, 
and it was rightfully my own ; and yet upon every returning 
Saturday night, this money — my own hard earnings, every 
cent of it — was demanded of me and taken from me by 
Master Hugh. He did not earn it ; he had no hand in 
earning it; why, then should he. have it? I owed him 
nothing. He had given me no schooling, and I had 
received from him only my food and raiment ; and for 
these my services were supposed to pay from the first. 
The right to take my earnings was the right of the rob- 


bcr. He had the power to compel me to give him the 
fruits of my labor, and this power was his only right in 
the case, I became more and more dissatisfied with this 
state of things, and in so becoming I only gave proof of 
the same human nature which every reader of this chap- 
ter in my life — slaveholder, or non-slaveholder — is con- 
scious of possessing. 

To make a contented slave, you must make a thought- 
less one. It is necessary to darken his moral and mental 
vision, and as far as possible, to annihilate his power of 
reason. He must be able to detect no inconsistencies in 
slavery. The man who takes his earnings must be able 
to convince him that he has a perfect right to do so. It 
must not depend upon mere force : the slave must know 
no higher law than his master's will. The whole relation- 
ship must not only demonstrate to his mind its necessity, 
but its absolute rightfulness. If there be one crevice 
/through which a single drop can fall, it will certainly 
rust off the slave's chain. 



Closing incidents in my "Life as a Slave" — Discontent — Suspicions 
— Master's generosity — Difficulties in the way of escape — Plan to 
obtain money — Allowed to hire my time — A gleam of hope — Attend 
camp-meeting — Anger of Master Hugh — The result — Plans of Es- 
cape — Day for departure fixed — Harrassing doubts and fears — Pain- 
ful thoughts of separation from friends. 

MY condition during the year of my escape (1838) 
was comparatively a free and easy one, so far, at 
least, as the wants of the physical man were concerned ; 
but the reader will bear in mind that my troubles, from 
the beginning had been less physical than mental, and he 
will thus be prepared to find that slave life was adding 
nothing to its charms for me as I grew older, and be- 
came more and more acquainted with it. The practice 
from week to week of openly robbing me of all my earn- 
ings, kept the nature and character of slavery constantly 
before me. I could be robbed by indirection, but this 
was too open and barefaced to be endured. I could see 
no reason why I should, at the end of each week, pour 
the reward of my honest toil into the purse of my master. 
My obligation to do this vexed me, and the manner in 
which Master Hugh received my wages vexed me yet 
more. Carefully counting the money, and rolling it out 
dollar by dollar, he would look me in the face as if he 
would search my heart as well as my pocket, and reproach- 
fully ask me, " Is that all ? " — implying that I had perhaps 
kept back part of my wages ; or, if not so, the demand 
was made possibly to make me feel that after all, I was 
an " unprofitable servant." Draininglme of the last cent 



of my hard earnings, lie would, however, occasionally, 
when I brought home an extra large sum, dole out to me 
a sixpence or shilling, with a view, perhaps, of kindling 
up my gratitude. But it had the opposite effect; it was 
an admission of my right to the whole sum. The fact 
that he gave me any part of my wages, was proof that he 
suspected I had a right to the whole of them ; and I always 
felt uncomfortable after having received anything in this 
way, lest his giving me a few cents might possibly ease 
his conscience, and make him feel himself to be a pretty 
honorable robber after all. 

Held to a strict account, and kept under a close watch, 
— the old suspicion of my running away not having been 
entirely removed, — to accomplish my escape seemed a 
very difficult thing. The railroad from Baltimore to 
Philadelphia was under regulations so stringent that even 
free colored travelers were almost excluded. They must 
have free papers ; they must be measured and carefully 
examined before they could enter the cars, and could 
go only in the day time, even when so examined. The 
steamboats were under regulations equally stringent. 
And still more, and worse than all, all the great turn- 
pikes leading northward were beset with kidnappers ; a 
class of men who watched the newspapers for advertise- 
ments for runaway slaves, thus making their living by the 
accursed reward of slave-hunting. 

My discontent grew upon me, and I was on a con- 
stant look-out for means to get away. With money I could 
easily have managed the matter, and from this considera- 
tion I hit upon the plan of soliciting the privilege of 
hiring my time. It was quite common in Baltimore to 
allow slaves this privilege, and was the practice also in 
New Orleans. A slave who was considered trustworthy 
could, by paying his master a definite sum regularly, at 
the end of each week, dispose of his time as he liked. It 


SO happened that I was not in very good odor, and I was 
far from behig a trustworthy slave. Nevertheless, I 
watched my opportunity when Master Thomas came to 
Baltnnore (for 1 was still his property, Hugh only acting 
as his agent) in the spring of 1838, to purchase his spring 
supply of goods, and applied to liim directly for the much- 
coveted privilege of hiring my time. This request Master 
Thomas unhesitatingly refused to grant ; and he charged 
me, with some sternness, with inventing this stratagem 
to make my escape. He told me I could go nowhere but 
he would catch me ; and, in the event of my running 
away, I might be assured he should spare no pains in his 
efforts to recapture me. He recounted, with a good deal 
of eloquence, the many kind offices he had done me, and 
exhorted me to be contented and obedient. " Lay out no 
plans for the future," said he ; " if you behave yourself 
properly, I will take care of you." Now, kind and con- 
siderate as this offer was, it failed to soothe me into 
repose. In spite of all Master Thomas had said, and in 
spite of my own efforts to the contrary, the injustice and 
wickedness of slavery were always uppermost in my 
thoughts, strengthening my purpose to make my escape 
at the earliest moment possible. 

About two months after applying to Master Thomas 
for the privilege of hiring my time, I applied to Master 
Hugh for the same liberty, supposing him to be unac- 
quainted with the fact that I had made a similar applica- 
tion to Master Thomas, and had been refused. My bold- 
ness in making this request fairly astounded him at first. 
He gazed at me in amazement. But I had many good 
reasons for pressing the matter, and, after listening to 
them awhile, he did not absolutely refuse, but told 
me he would think of it. There was hope for me in this. 
Once master of my own time, I felt sure that I could 
make over and above my obligation to him, a dollar or 


two every week. Some slaves had made enough in this 
way to purcliase their freedom. It was a sharp spur to 
their industry ; and some of tlie most enterprising colored 
men in Baltimore hired themselves in that way. 

After mature reflection, as I suppose it was, Master 
Hugh granted me the privilege in question, on the follow- 
ing terms : I was to be allowed all my time ; to make all 
bargains for work, and to collect my own wages ; and in 
return for this liberty, I was required or obliged to pay 
him three dollars at the end of each week, and to board 
and clothe myself, and buy my own calking tools. A 
failure in any of these particulars would put an end to 
the privilege. This was a hard bargain. The wear and 
tear of clothing, the losing and breaking of tools, and the 
expense of board, made it necessary for me to earn at 
least six dollars per week to keep even with the world. 
All who are acquainted with calking know how uncertain 
and irregular that employment is. It can be done to advan- 
tage only in dry weather, for it is useless to put wet oak- 
um into a ship's seam. Rain or shine, however, work or 
no work, at the end of each week the money must be 

Master Hugh seemed much pleased with this arrange- 
ment for a time ; and well he might be, for it was 
decidedly in his favor. It relieved him of all anxiety con- 
cerning me. His money w^as sure. He had armed my 
love of liberty with a lash and a driver far more efficient 
than any I had before known ; and while he derived all 
the benefits of slaveholding by the arrangement, without 
its evils, I endured all the evils of being a slave, and yet 
suffered all the care and anxiety of a responsible freeman. 
" Nevertheless," thought I, " it is a valuable privilege — 
another step in my career toward freedom." It was 
something even to be permitted to stagger under the 
disadvantages of liberty, and I was determined to hold on 


to the newly gained footing by all proper industry. I 
was ready to work by night as by day, and being in the 
possession of excellent health, I was not only able to 
meet my current expenses, but also to lay by a small sum 
at the end of each week. All went on thus from the 
month of May till August ; then, for reasons which will 
become apparent as I proceed, my much-valued liberty 
was wrested from me. 

During the week previous to this calamitous event, I 
had made arrangements with a few young friends to 
accompany them on Saturday night to a camp-meeeting, 
to be held about twelve miles from Baltimore. On the 
evening of our intended start for the camp-ground, some- 
thing occurred in the ship-yard where I was at work 
which detained me unusually late, and compelled me 
either to disappoint my friends, or to neglect carrying my 
weekly dues to Master Hugh. Knowing that I had the 
money and could hand it to him on another day, I decided 
to go to camp-meeting, and pay him the three dollars for 
the past week on my return. Once on the camp-ground, 
I was induced to remain one day longer than I had in- 
tended when I left home. But as soon as I returned I 
went directly to his home on Fell street to hand him his 
(my) money. Unhappily the fatal mistake had been 
made. I found him exceedingly angry. He exhibited 
all the signs of apprehension and wrath which a slave- 
holder might be surmised to exhibit on the supposed 
escape of a favorite slave. " You rascal ! I have a great 
mind to give you a sound whipping. How dare you go 
out of the city without first asking and obtaining my per- 
mission?" "Sir," I said, "I hired my time and paid 
you the price you asked for it. I did not know that it 
was any part of the bargain that I should ask you when 
or where I should go." " You did not know, you rascal ! 
You are bound to show yourself here every Saturday 


night." After reflecting a few moments, he became 
somewhat cooled down ; but, evidently greatly troubled, 
he said : " Now, you scoundrel, you have done for your- 
self ; you shall hire your time no longer. The next thing 
I shall hear of will be your running away. Bring home 
your tools at once. I'll teach you how to go off in this 

Thus ended my partial freedom. I could hire my time 
no longer ; and I obeyed my master's orders at once. 
The little taste of liberty which I had had — although as 
it will be seen, that taste was far from being unalloyed, — 
by no means enhanced my contentment with slavery. 
Punished by Master Hugh, it was now my turn to punish 
him. "Since," thought I, " you ivill make a slave of me, 
I will await your order in all things." So, instead of 
going to look for work on Monday morning, as I had for- 
merly done, I remained at home during the entire week, 
without the performance of a single stroke of work. 
Saturday night came, and he called upon me as usual for 
my wages. I, of course, told him I had done no work, 
and had no wages. Here we were at the point of coming 
to blows. His wrath had been accumulating during the 
whole week ; for he evidently saw that I was making no 
effort to get work, but was most aggravatingly awaiting 
his orders in all things. As I look back to this behavior 
of mine, I scarcely know what possessed me, thus to 
trifle with one who had such unlimited power to bless or 
blast me. Master Hugh raved, and swore he would " get 
hold of me," but wisely for him^ and happily for me, his 
wrath employed only those harmless, impalpable missiles 
which roll from a limber tongue. In my desperation I 
had fully made up my mind to measure strength with 
him in case he should attempt to execute his threat. I 
am glad there was no occasion for this, for resistance to 
him could not have ended so happily for me as it did in 

Found in the Woods by Saxdy 


the case of Covey. Master Hugh was not a man to be 
safely resisted by a slave ; and I freely own that in my 
conduct toward him, in this instance, there was more 
folly than wisdom. He closed his reproofs by telling me 
that hereafter I need give myself no uneasiness about 
getting work ; he " would himself see to getting work for 
me, and enough of it at that." This threat, I confess, 
had some terror in it, and on thinking the matter over 
during the Sunday, I resolved not only to save him the 
trouble of getting me work, but that on the third day of 
September I would attempt to make my escape. His re- 
fusal to allow me to hire my time therefore hastened the 
period of my flight. I had three weeks in which to pre- 
pare for my journey. 

Once resolved, I felt a cei*tain degree of repose, and on 
Monday morning, instead of waiting for Master Hugh to 
seek employment for me, I was up by break of day, and 
off to the ship-yard of Mr. Butler, on the City Block, near 
the draw-bridge. I was a favorite with Mr. Butler, and, 
young as I was, I had served as his foreman, on the float- 
stage, at calking. Of course I easily obtained work, and 
at the end of the week, which, by the way, was exceed- 
ingly fine, I brought Master Hugh nine dollars. The 
effect of this mark of returning good sense on my part 
was excellent. He was very much pleased ; he took the 
money, commended me, and told me I might have done 
the same thing the week before. It is a blessed thing 
that the tyrant may not always know the thoughts and 
purposes of his victim. Master Hugh little knew my 
plans. The going to camp-meeting without asking his 
permission, the insolent answers to his reproaches, the 
sulky deportment of the week after being deprived of the 
privilege of hiring my time, had awakened the suspicion 
that I might be cherishing disloyal purposes. My object, 
therefore, in working steadily was to remove suspicion ; 


and in this I succeeded admirably. He probably thought 
I was never better satisfied with my condition than at 
the very time I was planning my escape. The second 
week passed, and I again carried him my full week's 
wages — nine dollars ; and so well pleased was he that he 
gave me twenty-five cents ! and bade me " make good use 
of it." I told him I would do so, for one of the uses to 
which I intended to put it was to pay my fare on the 
'' underground railroad." 

Things without went on as usual ; but I was passing 
through the same internal excitement and anxiety which 
I had experienced two years and a half before. The fail- 
ure in that instance was not calculated to increase my 
confidence in the success of this, my second attempt ; 
and I knew that a second failure could not leave me 
where my first did. I must either get to the far North 
or he sent to the far South. Besides the exercise of mind 
from this state of facts, I had the painful sensation of 
being about to separate from a circle of honest and warm- 
hearted friends. The thought of such a separation, where 
the hope of ever meeting again was excluded, and where 
there could be no correspondence, was very painful. It 
is my opinion that thousands more would have escaped 
from slavery but for the strong affection which bound 
them to their families, relatives, and friends. The daugh- 
ter was hindered by the love she bore her mother, and the 
father by the love he bore his wife and children, and so 
on to the end of the chapter. I had no relations in Balti- 
more, and I saw no probability of ever living in the 
neighborhood of sisters and brothers ; but the thought of 
leaving my friends was the strongest obstacle to my run- 
ning away. The last two days of the week, Friday and 
Saturday, were spent mostly in collecting my things 
together for my journey. Having worked four days that 
week for my master, I handed him six dollars on Satur- 


day night. I seldom spent my Sundays at home, and for 
fear that something might be discovered in my conduct, 
I kept up my custom and absented myself all day. On 
Monday, the third day of September, 1838, in accordance 
with my resolution, I bade farewell to the city of Balti- 
more, and to that slavery which had been my abhorrence 
from childhood. 



Reasons for not having revealed the manner of escape — Nothing of 
romance in the method — Danger — Free papers — Unjust tax — Pro- 
tection papers — "Free trade and Sailors' rights" — American eagle 
— Railroad train — Unobserving conductor — Capt. McGowan — Hon- 
est German — Fears — Safe arrival in Philadelphia — Ditto in New 

IN the first narrative of my experience in slavery, writ- 
ten nearly forty years ago, and in various writings 
since, I have given the public what I considered very 
good reasons for withholding the manner of my escape. 
In substance these reasons were, first, that such publi- 
cation at any time during the existence of slavery might 
be used by the master against the slave, and prevent the 
future escape of any who might adopt the same means 
that I did. The second reason was, if possible, still more 
binding to silence — for publication of details would cer- 
tainly have put in peril the persons and property of those 
who assisted. Murder itself was not more sternly and 
certainly punished in the State of Maryland than that of 
aiding and abetting the escape of a slave. Many colored 
men, for no other crime than that of giving aid to a fugi- 
tive slave, have, like Charles T. Torrey, perished in prison. 
The abolition of slavery in my native State and through- 
out the country, and the lapse of time, render the caution 
hitherto observed no longer necessary. But, even since 
the abolition of slavery, I have sometimes thought it well 



enough to baffle curiosity by saying that while slavery 
existed there were good reasons for not telling the man- 
ner of my escape, and since slavery had ceased to exist 
there was no reason for telling it. I shall now, however, 
cease to avail myself of this formula, and, as far as I can, 
endeavor to satisfy this very natural curiosity. I should 
perhaps have yielded to that feeling sooner, had there 
been anything very heroic or thrilling in the incidents 
connected with my escape, for I am sorry to say I have 
nothing of that sort to tell ; and yet the courage that 
could risk betrayal and the bravery which was ready to 
encounter death if need be, in pursuit of freedom, were 
essential features in the undertaking. My success was 
due to address rather than courage ; to good luck rather 
than bravery. My means of escape were provided for 
me by the very men who were making laws to hold and 
bind me more securely in slavery. It was the custom in 
the State of Maryland to require of the free colored peo- 
ple to have what were called free papers. This instru- 
ment they were required to renew very often, and by 
charging a fee for this writing, considerable sums from 
time to time were collected by the State. In these papers 
the name, age, color, height, and form of the free man 
were described, together with any scars or other marks 
upon his person, which could assist in his identification. 
This device of slaveholding ingenuity, like other devices 
of wickedness, in some measure defeated itself — since 
more than one man could be found to answer the same 
general description. Hence many slaves could escape by 
personating the owner of one set of papers ; and this was 
often done as follows : A slave nearly or sufficiently 
answering the description set forth in the papers, would 
borrow or hire them till he could by their means escape 
to a free state, and then, by mail or otherwise, return 
them to the owner. The operation was a hazardous one 


for the lender as well as the borrower. A failure on the 
part of the fugitive to send back the papers would im- 
peril his benefactor, and the discovery of the papers in 
possession of the wrong man would imperil both the fugi- 
tive and his friend. It was therefore an act of supreme 
trust on the part of a freeman of color thus to put in 
jeopardy his own liberty that another might be free. It was, 
however, not unfrequently bravely done, and was seldom 
discovered. I was not so fortunate as to sufficiently 
resemble any of my free acquaintances as to answer the 
description of their papers. But I had one friend — a 
sailor — who owned a sailor's protection, which answered 
somewhat the purpose of free papers — describing his per- 
son, and certifying to the fact that he was a free Ameri- 
can sailor. The instrument had at its head the American 
eagle, which gave it the appearance at once of an author- 
ized document. This protection did not, when in my 
hands, describe its bearer very accurately. Indeed, it 
called for a man much darker than myself, and close 
examination of it would have caused my arrest at the 
start. In order to avoid this fatal scrutiny on the part 
of the railroad official, I had arranged with Isaac Rolls, 
a hackman, to bring my baggage to the train just on the 
moment of starting, and jumped upon the car myself 
when the train was already in motion. Had I gone into 
the station and offered to purchase a ticket, I should 
have been instantly and carefully examined, and undoubt- 
edly arrested. In choosing this plan upon which to act, 
I considered the jostle of the train, and the natural haste 
of the conductor, in a train crowded with passengers, 
and relied upon my skill and address in playing the 
sailor as described in my protection, to do the rest. One 
element in my favor was the kind feeling which prevailed 
in Baltimore, and other seaports at the time, towards 
" those who go down to the sea in ships." " Free trade 


and sailors' rights" expressed the sentiment of the coun- 
try just then. In my clothing I was rigged out in sailor 
style. I had on a red shirt and a tarpaulin hat and black 
cravat, tied in sailor fashion, carelessly and loosely about 
my neck. My knowledge of ships and sailor's talk came 
much to my assistance, for I knew a ship from stem to 
stern, and from keelson to cross-trees, and could talk 
sailor like an "old salt." On sped the train, and I was 
well on the way to Havre de Grace before the conductor 
came into the negro car to collect tickets and examine 
the papers of his black passengers. This was a critical 
moment in the drama. My whole future depended upon 
the decision of this conductor. Agitated I was while this 
ceremony was proceeding, but still externally, at least, I 
was apparently calm and self-possessed. He went on 
with his duty — examining several colored passengers 
before reaching me. He was somewhat harsh in tone, 
and peremptory in manner until he reached me, when, 
strangely enough, and to my surprise and relief, his whole 
manner changed. Seeing that I did not readily produce 
my free papers, as the other colored persons in the car 
had done, he said to me in a friendly contrast with that 
observed towards the others : " I suppose you have your 
free papers ? " To which I answered : " No, sir ; I never 
carry my free papers to sea with me." " But you have 
something to show that you are a free man, have you 
not?" "Yes, sir," I answered ; "I have a paper with 
the American eagle on it, that will carry me round the 
world." With this I drew from my deep sailor's pocket 
my seaman's protection, as before described. The merest 
glance at the paper satisfied him, and he took my fare 
and went on about his business. This moment of time 
was one of the most anxious I ever experienced. Had 
the conductor looked closely at the paper, he could not 
have failed to discover that it called for a very different 


looking person from myself, and in that case it would 
have been his duty to arrest me on the instant, and send 
me back to Baltimore from the first station. When he 
left me with the assurance that I was all right, though 
much relieved, I realized that I was still in great danger: 
I was still in Maryland, and subject to arrest at any 
moment. I saw on the train several persons who would 
have known me in any other clothes, and I feared they 
might recognize me, even in my sailor " rig," and report 
me to the conductor, who would then subject me to a 
closer examination, which I knew well would be fatal 
to me. 

Though I was not a murderer fleeing from justice, I 
felt, perhaps, quite as miserable as such a criminal. The 
train was moving at a very high rate of speed for that time 
of railroad travel, but to my anxious mind, it was moving 
far too slowly. Minutes were hours, and hours were days 
during this part of my flight. After Maryland I was to 
pass through Delaware — another slave State, where slave- 
catchers generally awaited their prey, for it was not in 
the interior of the State, but on its borders, that these 
human hounds were most vigilant and active. The bor- 
der lines between slavery and freedom were the danger- 
ous ones, for the fugitives. The heart of no fox or deer, 
with hungry hounds on his trail, in full chase, could 
have beaten more anxiously or noisily than did mine, 
from the time I left Baltimore till I reached Philadelphia. 
The passage of the Susquehanna river at Havre de Grace 
was made by ferry-boat at that time, on board of which 
I met a young colored man by the name of Nichols, who 
came very near betraying me. He was a " hand " on the 
boat, but instead of minding his business, he insisted up- 
on knowing me, and asking me dangerous questions as 
to where I was going, and when I was coming back, etc. 
I got away from my old and inconvenient acquaintance 

PoRTiiAiT OF John Brown. 


as soon as I could decently do so, and went to another 
part of the boat. Once across the river I encountered a 
new danger. Only a few days before I had been at work 
on a revenue cutter, in Mr. Price's ship-yard, under the 
care of Captain McGowan. On the meeting at this point 
of the two trains, the one going south stopped on the 
track just opposite to the one going north, and it so hap- 
pened that this Captain Mcdowan sat at a window where 
he could see me very distinctly, and would certainly have 
recognized me had he looked at me but for a second. 
Fortunately, in the hurry of the moment, he did not see 
me ; and the trains soon passed each other on their 
respective ways. But this was not the only hair-breadth 
escape. A German blacksmith, whom I knew well, was 
on the train with me, and looked at me very intently, as 
if he thought he had seen me somewhere before in his 
travels. I really believe he knew me, but had no heart 
to betray me. ' At any rate he saw me escaping and held 
his peace. 

The last point of imminent danger, and the one I 
dreaded most, was Wilmington. Here we left the train 
and took the steamboat for Philadelphia. In making the 
change here I again apprehended arrest, but no one dis- 
turbed me, and I was soon on the broad and beautiful 
Delaware, speeding away to the Quaker City. On reach- 
ing Philadelphia in the afternoon I inquired of a colored 
man how I could get on to New York ? He directed me 
to the Willow street depot, and thither I went, taking the 
train that night. I reached New York Tuesday morning, 
having completed the journey in less than twenty-four 
hours. Such is briefly the manner of my escape from 
slavery — and the end of my experience as a slave. Other 
chapters will tell the story of my life as a freeman. 



Loneliness and Insecurity — " Allender's Jake " — Succored by a sailor 
— David Ruggles — Marriage — Steamer J. W. Richmond — Stage to 
New Bedford — Arrival there — Driver's detention of baggage — Na- 
than Johnson — Change of name — Why called "Douglas" — Obtain- 
ing work — The Liberator and its editor. 

MY free life began on the third of September, 1838. 
On the morning of the 4th of that month, after 
an anxious and most perilous but safe journey, I found 
myself in the big city of New York, a free man ; one 
more added to the mighty throng which, like the con- 
fused waves of the troubled sea, surged to and fro between 
the lofty walls of Broadway. Though dazzled with the 
wonders which met me on every hand, my thoughts could 
not be much withdrawn from my strange situation. For the 
moment the dreams of my youth, and the hopes of my 
manhood, were completely fulfilled. The bonds that had 
held me to " old master" were broken. No man now had 
a right to call me his slave or assert mastery over me. 
I was in the rough and tumble of an outdoor world, to 
take my chance with the rest of its busy number. I have 
often been asked, how I felt when first I found myself on 
free soil. And my readers may share the same curiosity. 
There is scarcely anything in my experience about which 
I could not give a more satisfactory answer. A new 
world had opened upon me. If life is more than breath, 
and the " quick round of blood," I lived more in one day 
than in a year of my slave life. It was a time of joyous 
excitement which words can but tamely describe. In a 



letter written to a friend soon after reaching New York, 
I said : *' I felt as one might feel upon escape from a den 
of hungry lions. " Anguish and grief, like darkness and 
rain, may be depicted ; but gladness and joy, like the rain- 
bow, defy the skill of pen or pencil. During ten or fifteen 
years I had, as it were, been dragging a heavy chain, 
which no strength of mine could break ; I was not only a 
slave, but a slave for life. I might become a husband, a 
father, an aged man, but through all, from the cradle to 
the grave, I had felt myself doomed. All efforts I had 
previously made to secure my freedom, had not only 
failed, but had seemed only to rivet my fetters the more 
firmly, and to render my escape more difficult. Baffled, 
entangled, and discouraged, I had at times asked myself 
the question. May not my condition after all be God's 
work, and ordered for a wise purpose, and if so, was not 
submission my duty ? A contest had in fact been going 
on in my mind for a long time, between the clear con- 
sciousness of right, and the plausible make-shifts of theol- 
ogy and superstition. The one held me an abject slave — 
a prisoner for life, punished for some transgression in 
which I had no lot or part ; and the other counseled me 
to manly endeavor to secure my freedom. This contest 
was now ended ; my chains were broken, and the victory 
brought me unspeakable joy. But my gladness was short 
lived, for I was not yet out of the reach and power of the 
slaveholders. I soon found that New York was not quite 
so free, or so safe a refuge as I had supposed, and a sense 
of loneliness and insecurity again oppressed me most 
sadly. I chanced to meet on the street, a few hours after 
my landing, a fugitive slave whom I had once known well 
in slavery. The information received from him alarmed 
me. The fugitive in question was known in Baltimore 
as " Allender's Jake," but in New York he wore the more 
respectable name of " William Dixon." Jake in law was 


the property of Doctor AUender, and Tolly Allendcr, the 
son of the doctor, had once made an effort to recapture 
Mr. Dixon, but had failed for want of evidence to support 
his claim. Jake told me the circumstances of this 
attempt, and how narrowly he escaped being sent back to 
slavery and torture. He told me that New York was 
then full of southeners returning from the watering-places 
north ; that the colored people of New York were not to 
be trusted ; that there were hired men of my own color 
who would betray me for a few dollars ; that there were 
hired men ever on the lookout for fugitives ; that I must 
trust no man with my secret ; that I must not think of 
going either upon the wharves, or into any colored board- 
ing-house, for all such places were closely watched ; that 
he was himself unable to help me ; and, in fact, he seemed 
while speaking to me, to fear lest I myself might be a spy 
and a betrayer. Under this apprehension, as I suppose, 
he showed signs of wishing to be rid of me, and with 
whitewash brush in hand, in search of work, he soon dis- 
appeared. This picture, given by poor " Jake," of New 
York, was a damper to my enthusiasm. My little store 
of money would soon be exhausted, and since it would be 
unsafe for me to go on the wharves for work, and I had no 
introductions elsewhere, the prospect for me was far from 
cheerful. I saw the wisdom of keeping away from the 
ship-yards, for, if pursued, as I felt certain I would be, 
Mr. Auld would naturally seek me there among the calk- 
ers. Every door seemed closed against me. I was in the 
midst of an ocean of my fellow-men, and yet a perfect 
stranger to every one. I was without home, without 
acquaintance, without money, without credit, without 
work, and without any definite knowledge as to what 
course to take, or where to look for succor. In such an 
extremity, a man has something beside his new-born free- 
dom to think of. While wandering about the streets of 


New York, and lodging at least one night among the 
barrels on one of the wharves, I was indeed free — from 
slavery, but free from food and shelter as well. I kept 
my secret to myself as long as I could, but was compelled 
at last to seek some one who should befriend me, without 
taking advantage of my destitution to betray me. Such 
an one I found in a sailor named Stuart, a warm-hearted 
and generous fellow, who from his humble home on Cen- 
ter street, saw me standing on the opposite sidewalk, 
near " The Tombs." As he approached me I ventured a 
remark to him which at once enlisted his interest in me. 
He took me to his home to spend the night, and in the 
morning went with me to Mr. David Ruggles, the secre- 
tary of the New York vigilance committee, a co-worker 
with Isaac T. Hopper, Lewis and Arthur Tappan, Theo- 
dore S. Wright, Samuel Cornish, Thomas Downing, 
Philip A. Bell, and other true men of their time. All 
these (save Mr. Bell, who still lives, and is editor and 
publisher of a paper called the Elevator^ in San Fran- 
cisco) have finished their work on earth. Once in the 
hands of these brave and wise men, I felt comparatively 
safe. With Mr. Ruggles, on the corner of Lispenard and 
Church streets, I Avas hidden several days, during which 
time my intended wife came on from Baltimore at my 
call, to share the burdens of life with me. She was a 
free woman, and came at once on getting the good news 
of my safety. We were married by Rev. J. W. C. Pen- 
nington, then a well-known and respected Presbyterian 
minister. I had no money with which to pay the mar- 
riage fee, but he seemed well pleased with our thanks. 

Mr. Ruggles was the first officer on the underground 
railroad with whom I met after coming North ; and was 
indeed the only one with whom I had anything to do, till 
I became such an officer myself. Learning that my trade 
was that of a calker, he promptly decided that the best 


place for me was in New Bedford, Mass. He told me 
that many ships for whaling voyages were fitted out 
there, and that I might there find work at my trade, and 
make a good living. So, on the day of the marriage cere- 
mony, we took our little luggage to the steamer John W. 
Kiclimond, w^hich at that time was one of the line run- 
ning between New York and Newport, R. I. Forty-three 
years ago colored travelers were not permitted in the 
cabin, nor allowed abaft the paddle-wheels of a steam 
vessel. They were compelled, whatever the weather 
might be, whether cold or hot, wet or dry, to spend the 
night on deck. Unjust as this regulation was, it did not 
trouble us much. We had fared much harder before. 
We arrived at Newport the next morning, and soon after 
an old-fashioned stage-coach with " New Bedford " in 
large, yellow letters on its sides, came down to the wharf. 
I had not money enough to pay our fare, and stood hesi- 
tating to know what to do. Fortunately for us, there 
were two Quaker gentlemen who were about to take pas- 
sage on the stage, — Friends William C. Taber and Joseph 
Eicketson, — who at once discerned our true situation, 
and in a peculiarly quiet way, addressing me, Mr. Taber 
said : " Thee get in." I never obeyed an order with more 
alacrity, and we were soon on our way to our new home. 
When we reached "Stone Bridge" the passengers 
alighted for breakfast, and paid their fares to the driver. 
We took no breakfast, and when asked for our fares I 
told the driver I would make it right with him when we 
reached New Bedford. I expected some objection to 
this on his part, but he made none. When, however, we 
reached New Bedford he took our baggage, including 
three music books, — two of them collections by Dyer, 
and one by Sha\V, — and held them until I was able to 
redeem them by paying to him the sums due for our 
rides. This was soon done, for Mr. Nathan Johnson not 

At the Wharf in Newport 


only received me kindly and hospitably, but, on being 
informed about our baggage, at once loaned me the two 
dollars witli which to square accounts with the stage- 
driver. Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Johnson reached a good old 
age, and now rest from their labors. I am under many 
grateful obligations to them. They not only " took me in 
when a stranger," and "fed me when hungry," but taught 
me how to make an honest living. 

Thus, in a fortnight after my flight from Maryland, I 
was safe in New Bedford, — a citizen of the grand old 
commonwealth of Massachusetts. 

Once initiated into my new life of freedom, and assured 
by Mr. Johnson that I need not fear recapture in that 
city, a comparatively unimportant question arose, as to 
the name by which I should be known thereafter, in my 
new relation as a free man. The name given me by my 
dear mother was no less pretentious and long than Fred- 
erick Augustus Washington Bailey. I had, however, 
while living in Maryland disposed of the Augustus Wash- 
ington, and retained only Frederick Bailey. Between 
Baltimore and New Bedford, the better to conceal my- 
self from the slave-hunters, I had parted with Bailey and 
called myself Johnson ; but finding that in New Bedford 
the Johnson family was already so numerous as to cause 
some confusion in distinguishing one from another, a 
change in this name seemed desirable. Nathan Johnson, 
mine host, was emphatic as to this necessity, and wished 
me to allow him to select a name for me. I consented, 
and he called me by my present name, — the one by which 
I have been known for three and forty years,— Frederick 
Douglass. Mr. Johnson had just been reading the " Lady 
of the Lake," and so pleased was he with its great char- 
acter that he wished me to bear his name. Since reading 
that charming poem myself, I have often thought that, 
considering the noble hospitality and manly character of 
- 11 


Natlian Johnson, black man though he was, he, far more 
than I, illustrated the virtues of the Douglas of Scotland. 
Sure am I that if any slave-catcher had entered his domi- 
cile with a view to my recapture, Johnson would have 
been like him of the " stalwart hand." 

The reader may be surprised, that living in Baltimore 
as I had done for many years, when I toil the honest 
truth of the impressions I had in some way conceived of 
the social and material condition of the people at the 
north. I had no proper idea of the wealth, refinement, 
enterprise, and high civilization of this section of the 
country. My Columbian Orator, almost my only book, 
had done nothing to enlighten me concerning northern 
society. I had been taught that slavery was the bottom- 
fact of all wealth. With this foundation idea, I came 
naturally to the conclusion that poverty must be the gen- 
eral condition of the people of the free States. A white 
man holding no slaves in the country from which I came, 
was usually an ignorant and poverty-stricken man. Men 
of this class were contemptuously called " poor white 
trash." Hence I supposed that since the non-slaveholders 
at the south were ignorant, poor, and degraded as a class, 
the non-slaveholders at the north must be in a similar 
condition. New Bedford, therefore, which at that time 
was really the richest city in the Union, in proportion to 
its population, took me greatly by surprise, in the evi- 
dences it gave of its solid wealth and grandeur. I found 
that even the laboring classes lived in better houses, that 
their houses were more elegantly furnished, and were 
more abundantly supplied with conveniences and com- 
forts, than the houses of many who owned slaves on the 
Eastern Shore of Maryland. This was true not only of 
the white people of that city, but it was so of my friend, 
Mr. Johnson. He lived in a nicer house, dined at a more 
ami)le board, was the owner of more books, the reader of 


more newspapers, was more conversant with the moral, 
social and political condition of the country and the 
world, than nine-tenths of the slaveholders in all Talbot 
county. I was not long in finding the cause of the differ- 
ence, in these respects, between, the people of the north 
and south. It was the superiority of educated mind over 
mere brute force. I will not detain the reader by 
extended ilhistrations as to how my understanding was 
enlightened on this subject. On the wharves of New 
Bedford I received my first light. I saw there industry 
without bustle, labor without noise, toil — honest, earnest, 
and exhaustive — without the whip. There was no loud 
singing or hallooing, as at the wharves of southern ports 
when ships were loading or unloading ; no loud cursing or 
quarreling ; everything went on as smoothly as well-oiled 
machinery. One of the first incidents which impressed 
me with the superior mental character of labor in the 
north over that of the south, was the manner of loading 
and unloading vessels. In a southern port twenty or 
thirty hands would be employed to do what or six 
men, with the help of one ox, would do at the wharf in 
New Bedford. Main strength — human muscle — unas- 
sisted by intelligent skill, was slavery's method of labor. 
With a capital of about sixty dollars in the shape of a 
good-natured old ox, attached to the end of a stout rope, 
New Bedford did the work of ten or twelve thousand dol- 
lars, represented in the bones and muscles of slaves, and 
did it far better. In a word, I found everything managed 
with a much more scrupulous regard to economy, both of 
men and things, time and strength, than in the country from 
which I had come. Instead of going a hundred yards to 
the spring, the maid-servant had a well or pump at her 
elbow. The wood used for fuel was kept dry and snugly 
piled away for winter. Here were sinks, drains, self-shut- 
ting gates, pounding-barrels, washing-machines, wringing 


machines, and a hundred other contrivances for saving 
time and money. The ship-repairing docks showed the 
same tlioughtful wisdom as seen elsewhere. Everybody 
seemed in earnest. The carpenter struck the nail on its 
head, and the calkers waited no strength in idle flourishes 
of their mallets. Ships brought here for repairs were 
made stronger and better than when new. I could have 
landed in no part of the United States where I should 
have found a more striking and gratifying contrast, not 
only to life generally in the South, but in the condition of 
the colored people there, than in New Bedford. No col- 
ored man was really free while residing in a slave State. 
He was ever more or less subject to the condition of his 
slave brother. In his color was his badge of bondage. I 
saw in New Bedford the nearest approach to freedom and 
equality that I had ever seen. I was amazed when Mr. 
Johnson told me that there was nothing in the laws or 
constitution of Massachusetts that would prevent a col- 
ored man from being governor of the State, if the people 
should see fit to elect him. There too the black man's 
children attended the same public schools with the white 
man's children, and apparently without objection from 
any quarter. To impress me with my security from re- 
capture, and return to slavery, Mr. Johnson assured me 
that no slaveholder could take a slave out of New Bed- 
ford ; that there were men there who would lay down 
their lives to save me from such a fate. A threat was 
once made by a colored man to inform a southern master 
where his runaway slave could be found. As soon as 
this threat became known to the colored people they were 
furious. A notice was read from the pulpit of the Third 
Christian Church (colored) for a public meeting, when 
important business would be transacted (not stating what 
the important business was). In the meantime special 
measures had been taken to secure the attendance of the 


would-be Judas, and these had proved successful, for 
when the hour of meeting arrived, ignorant of the object 
for which they were called together, the offender was 
promptly in attendance. All the usual formalities were 
gone through with, the prayer, appointments of president, 
secretaries, etc. Then the president, with an air of great 
solemnity, rose and said : " Well, friends and brethren, 
we have got him here, and I would recommend that you, 
young men, should take him outside the door and kill 
him." This was enough ; there was a rush for the villain, 
who would probably have been killed but for his escape 
by an open window. He was never seen again in New 

The fifth day after my arrival I put on the clothes of a 
common laborer, and went upon the wharves in search of 
work. On my way down Union street I saw a large pile 
of coal in front of the house of Rev. Ephraim Peabody, 
the Unitarian minister. I went to the kitchen-door and 
asked the privilege of bringing in ,and putting away this 
coal. " What will you charge ? " said the lady. " I will 
leave that to you, madam." " You may put it away," 
she said. I was not long in accomplishing the job, when 
the dear lady put into my hand two silver half-dollars. 
To understand the emotion which swelled my heart as I 
clasped this money, realizing that I had no master who 
could take it from me — that it was mine — that my hands 
were my own, and could earn more of the precious coin — 
one must have been in some sense himself a slave. My 
next job was stowing a sloop at Uncle Gid. Rowland's 
wharf with a cargo of oil for New York. I was not only 
a freeman but a free-working man, and no master Hugh 
stood ready at the end of the week to seize my hard 

The season was growing late and work was plenty. 
Ships were being fitted out for whaling, and much wood 


was used in storing tliem. Tlie sawing this wood was 
considered a good job. With the help of old Friend 
Johnson (blessings on his memory!) I got a "saw" and 
" buck" and went at it. When I went into a store to buy 
a cord with which to brace up my saw in the frame, 
I asked for a"fip's" worth of cord. The man behind 
the counter looked rather sharply at me, and said with 
equal sharpness, " You don't belong about here." I was 
alarmed, and thought I had betrayed myself. A fip in 
Maryland was six and a quarter cents, called fourpence in 
Massachusetts. But no harm came, except my fear, from 
the " fipenny-bit " blunder, and I confidently and cheer- 
fully went to work with my saw and buck. It was new 
business to me, but I never did better work, nor more of 
it in the same space of time, for Covey, the negro-breaker, 
than I did for myself in these earliest years of my free- 

Notwithstanding the just and humane sentiment of New 
Bedford three-and-forty years ago, the place was not entirely 
free from race and color prejudice. The good influence 
of the Eoaches, Eodmans, Arnolds, Grinnells, and Robe- 
sons did not pervade all classes of its people. The test 
of the real civilization of the community came when I ap- 
plied for work at my trade, and then my repulse was 
emphatic and decisive. It so happened that Mr. Rodney 
French, a wealthy and enterprising citizen, distinguished 
as an anti-slavery man, was fitting out a vessel for a 
whaling voyage, upon which there was a heavy job 
of calking and coppering to be done. I had some skill in 
both branches, and applied to Mr. French for work. He, 
generous man that he was, told me he would employ me, 
and I might go at once to tlie vessel. I obeyed him, but 
upon reaching the float-stage, where other calkers were at 
work, I was told that every white man would leave the 
ship in her unfinished condition, if I struck a blow at my 


trade upon her. This uncivil, inhuman, and selfish treat- 
ment was not so shocking and scandalous in my eyes 
at the time as it now appears to me. Slavery had inured 
me to hardships that made ordinary trouble sit lightly 
i;pon me. Could I have worked at my trade I could have 
earned two dollars a day, but as a common laborer I 
received but one dollar. The difference was of great im- 
portance to me, but if I could not get two dollars I was 
glad to get one ; and so I went to work for Mr. French as 
a common laborer. The consciousness that I was free — 
no longer a slave — kept me cheerful under this, and many 
similar proscriptions which I was destined to meet in New 
Bedford and elsewhere on the free soil of Massachusetts. 
For instance, though white and colored children attended 
the same schools, and were treated kindly by their teach- 
ers, the New Bedford Lyceum refused till several years 
after my residence in that city to allow any colored person 
to attend the lectures delivered in its hall. Not until 
such men as Hon. Chas. Sumner, Theodore Parker, Ralph 
W. Emerson, and Horace Mann refused to lecture in their 
course while there was such a restriction was it aban- 

Becoming satisfied that I could not rely on my trade in 
New Bedford to give me a living, I prepared myself to do 
any kind of work that came to hand. I sawed wood, 
shoveled coal, dug cellars, moved rubbish from back- 
yards, worked on the wharves, loaded and unloaded ves- 
sels, and scoured their cabins. 

This was an uncertain and unsatisfactory mode of life, 
for it kept me too much of the time in search of work. 
Fortunately it was not to last long. One of the gentlemen 
of whom I have spoken as being in company with Mr. 
Taber on the Newport wharf, when he said to me, " Thee 
get in," was Mr. Joseph Ricketson, and he was the pro- 
prietor of a large candle-works in the south part of 


the city. In tliis " candle-works," as it was called, though 
no candles were manufactured there, by the kindness 
of Mr. Ricketson I found what is of the utmost importance 
to a young man just starting in life — constant employ- 
ment and regular wages. My work in this oil-refinery 
required good wind and muscle. Large casks of oil were 
to be moved from place to place, and much heavy lifting 
to be done. Happily I was not deficient in the requisite 
qualities. Young (21 years), strong, and active, and am- 
bitious to do my full share, I soon made myself useful, 
and I think liked by the men who worked with me, though 
they were all white. I was retained here as long as there 
was anything for me to do, when I went again to the wharves 
and obtained work as a laborer on two vessels which be- 
longed to Mr. George Rowland, and which were being 
repaired and fitted up for whaling. My employer was a man 
of great industry ; a hard driver, but a good paymaster, 
and I got on well with him. I was not only fortunate in 
finding work with Mr. Howland, but in my work-fellows. 
I have seldom met three working men more intelligent 
than were John Briggs, Abraham Rodman, and Solomon 
Pennington, who labored with me on the "Java" and 
" Golconda." They were sober, thoughtful, and upright, 
thorouglily imbued with the spirit of liberty, and 1 am 
much indebted to them for many valuable ideas and im- 
pressions. They taught me that all colored men were 
not light-hearted triflers, incapable of serious thought or 
effort. My next place of work was at the brass-foundry 
owned by Mr. Richmond. My duty here was to blow the 
bellows, swing the crane, and empty the flasks in which 
castings were made ; and at times this was hot and heavy 
work. The articles produced here were mostly for ship- 
work, and in the busy season the foundry was in operation 
night and day. I have often worked two nights and each 
working day of the week. My foreman, Mr. Cobb, was a 


good man, and more than once protected me from abuse 
that one or more of the hands were disposed to throw upon 
me. While in this situation I had little time for mental 
improvement. Hard work, night and day, over a furnace 
hot enough to keep the metal running like water, was 
more favorable to action than thought, yet here I often 
nailed a newspaper to the post near my bellows, and read 
while I was performing the up and down motion of 
the heavy beam by which the bellows was inflated and 
discharged. It was the pursuit of knowledge under diffi- 
culties, and I look back to it now after so many years 
with some complacency and a little wonder that I could 
have been so earnest and persevering in any pursuit other 
than for my daily bread. I certainly saw nothing in the 
conduct of those around to inspire me with such interest; 
they were all devoted exclusively to what their hands 
found to do. I am glad to be able to say that during my 
engagement in this foundry no complaint was ever made 
against me that I did not do my work, and do it well. 
The bellows which I worked by main strength was, after I 
left, moved by a steam-engine. 

I had been living four or five months in New Bedford 
when there came a young man to me with a copy of 
the Liberator^ the paper edited by William Lloyd Garri- 
son and published by Isaac Knapp, and asked me to 
subscribe for it. I told him I had but just escaped from 
slavery, and was of course very poor, and had no money 
then to pay for it. He was very willing to take me as a sub- 
scriber, notwithstanding, and from this time I was brought 
into contact with the mind of Mr. Garrison, and his paper 
took a place in my heart second only to the Bible. It de- 
tested slavery, and made no truce with the traffickers in 
the bodies and souls of men. It preached human broth- 
erhood; it exposed hypocrisy and wickedness in high 
places; it denounced oppression; and with all the sol- 


emnity of " Thus saith the Lord," demanded the complete 
emancipation of my race. I loved this paper and its 
editor. He seemed to me an all-sufficient match to every 
opponent, whetlier they spoke in the name of the law or 
the gospel. His words were full of holy fire, and straight 
to the point. Something of a hero-worshiper by nature, 
here was one to excite my admiration and reverence. 

Soon after becoming a reader of the Liberator^ it was 
my privilege to listen to a lecture in Liberty Hall by 
Mr. Garrison, its editor. He w^as then a young man, 
of a singularly pleasing countenance, and earnest and 
impressive manner. On this occasion he announced 
nearly all his heresies. His Bible was his text- 
book — held sacred as the very word of the Eternal 
Father. He believed in sinless perfection, complete sub- 
mission to insults and injuries, and literal obedience to 
the injunction if smitten " on one cheek to turn the other 
also." Not only was Sunday a Sabbath, but all days 
Tvere Sabbaths, and to be kept holy. All sectarianism 
was false and mischievous — the regenerated throughout 
the world being members of one body, and the head 
Christ Jesus. Prejudice against color was rebellion against 
God. Of all men beneath the sky, the slaves, because 
most neglected and despised, were nearest and dearest 
to his great heart. Those ministers who defended slavery 
from the Bible were of their "father the devil"; and 
those churches which fellowshiped slaveholders as Chris- 
tians, were synagogues of Satan, and our nation was a 
nation of liars. He was never loud and noisy, but calm 
and serene as a summer sky, and as pure. " You are the 
man — the Moses, raised up by God, to deliver his modern 
Israel from bondage," was the spontaneous feeling of my 
heart, as I sat away back in the hall and listened to his 
mighty words, — mighty in truth, — mighty in their 
simple earnestness. I had not long been a reader 


of the Liberator^ and a listener to its editor, before 
I got a clear comprehension of the principles of 
the anti-slavery movement. I had already its spirit, 
and only needed to understand its principles and mea- 
sures, and as I became acquainted with these my 
hope for the ultimate freedom of my race increased. 
Every week the Liberator came, and every week I made 
myself master of its contents. All the anti-slavery meet- 
ings held in New Bedford I promptly attended, my heart 
bounding at every true utterance against the slave sys- 
tem, and every rebuke of its friends and supporters. 
Thus passed the first three years of my free life. I had 
not then dreamed of iho. possibility of my becoming a 
public advocate of the cause so deeply imbedded in my 
heart. It was enough for me to listen, to receive, and 
applaud the great words of others, and only whisper in 
private, among the white laborers on the wharves and 
elsewhere, the truths which burned in my heart. 



Anti-Slavery Convention at Nantucket — First Speech — Much Sensa- 
tion — Extraordinary Speech of Mr. Garrison — Anti- Slavery Agency 
— Youthful Enthusiasm — Fugitive Slaveship doubted — Experience 
in Slavery written — Danger of Recapture. 

IN the summer of 1841 a grand anti-slaverj convention 
was held in Nantucket, under the auspices of Mr. 
Garrison and his friends. I had taken no holiday since 
establishing myself in New Bedford, and feeling the need 
of a little rest, I determined on attending the meeting, 
though I had no thought of taking part in any of its pro- 
ceedings. Indeed, I was not aware that any one con- 
nected with the convention so much as knew my name. 
Mr. William C. Coffin, a prominent abolitionist in those 
days of trial, had heard me speaking to my colored 
friends in the little school-house on Second street, where 
we worshiped. He sought me out in the crowd and 
invited me to say a few words to the convention. Thus 
sought out, and thus invited, I was induced to express 
the feelings inspired by the occasion, and the fresh recol- 
lection of the scenes through which I had passed as a 
slave. It was with the utmost difficulty that I could 
stand erect, or that I could command and articulate two 
words without hesitation and stammering. I trembled 
in every limb. I am not sure that my embarrassment 
was not the most effective part of my speech, if speech it 
could be called. At any rate, this is about the only part 
of my performance that I now distinctly remember. The 
audience Sympathized with me at once, and from having 



been remarkably quiet, became much excited. Mr. Gar- 
rison followed me, taking me as his text, and now, 
whether /had made an eloquent plea in behalf of freedom, 
or not, his was one, never to be forgotten. Those who 
had heard him oftenest, and had known him longest, 
were astonished at his masterly effort. For the time he 
possessed that almost fabulous inspiration often referred 
to but seldom attained, in which a public meeting is 
transformed, as it were, into a single individuality, the 
orator swaying a thousand heads and hearts at once, and 
by the simple majesty of his all-controlling thought, con- 
verting his hearers into the express image of his own 
soul. That night there were at least a thousand Garri- 
sonians in Nantucket ! 

At the close of this great meeting I was duly waited on 
by Mr. John A. Collins, then the general agent of the 
Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, and urgently solicited 
by him to become an agent of that society, and publicly 
advocate its principles. I was reluctant to take the 
proffered position. I had not been quite three years 
from slavery and was honestly distrustful of my ability, 
and I wished to be excused. Besides, publicity might 
discover me to my master, and many other objections 
presented themselves. But Mr. Collins was not to be 
refused, and 1 finally consented to go out for three 
months, supposing I should in that length of time come 
to the end of my story and my consequent' usefulness. 

Here opened for me a new life — a life for which I had 
had no preparation. Mr. Collins used to say when intro- 
ducing me to an audience, I was a " graduate from the 
peculiar institution, with my diploma written on my lackP 
The three years of my freedom had been spent in the 
hard school of adversity. My hands seemed to be fur- 
nished with something like a leather coating, and I had 
marked out for myself a life of rough labor, suited to the 


hardness of my hands, as a means of supporting my 
family and rearing my children. 

Yonng, ardent, and hopeful, I entered upon tliis new 
life in the full gush of unsuspecting enthusiasm. The 
cause was good, the men engaged in it were good, the 
means to attain its triumph, good. Heaven's blessing 
must attend all, and freedom must soon be given to the 
millions pining under a ruthless bondafi:e. My whole 
heart went with the holy cause, and my most fervent 
prayer to the Almighty Disposer of the hearts of men, 
was continually offered for its early triumph. In this 
enthusiastic spirit I dropped into the ranks of freedom's 
friends and went forth to the battle. For a time I was 
made to forget that my skin was dark and my hair 
crisped. For a time I regretted that I could not have 
shared the hardships and dangers endured by the earlier 
w^orkers for the slave's release. I found, however, full 
soon that my enthusiasm had been extravagant, that 
hardships and dangers were not all over, and that the 
life now before me had its shadows also, as well as its 

Among the first duties assigned me on entering the 
ranks was to travel in company with Mr. George Foster 
to secure subscribers to the Anti-Slavery Standard and 
the Liberator. With him I traveled and lectured through 
the eastern counties of Massachusetts. Much interest 
was awakened — large meetings assembled. Many came, 
no doubt from curiosity to hear what a negro could say 
in his own cause. I was generally introduced as a " chat- 
tel " — a "thing" — a piece of southern property — the 
chairman assuring the audience that it could speak. 
Fugitive slaves were rare then, and as a fugitive slave 
lecturer, I had the advantage of being a " bran new fact" 
— the first one out. Up to that time, a colored man was 
deemed a fool who confessed himself a runaway slave, 


not only because of the danger to which he exposed him- 
self of being retaken, but because it was a confession of 
a very low origin. Some of my colored friends in New 
Bedford thought very badly of my wisdom in thus expos- 
ing and degrading myself. The only precaution I took 
at the beginning, to prevent Master Thomas from know- 
ing where I was and what I was about, was the withhold- 
ing my former name, my master's name, and the name 
of the State and county from which I came. During the 
first three or four months my speeches were almost 
exclusively made up of narrations of my own personal 
experience as a slave. " Let us have the facts," said the 
people. So also said Friend George Foster, who always 
wished to pin me down to a simple narrative. " Give 
us the facts," said Collins, " we will take care of the 
philosophy." Just here arose some embarrassment. It 
was impossible for me to repeat the same old story month 
after month, and to keep up my interest in it. It was new 
to the people, it is true, but it was an old story to me ; 
and to go through with it night after night was a task al- 
together too mechanical for my nature. " Tell your 
story, Frederick," would whisper my revered friend, Mr. 
Garrison, as I stepped upon the platform. I could not 
always follow the injunction, for I was now reading and 
thinking. New views of the subject were being presented 
to my mind. It did not entirely satisfy me to narrate 
wrongs ; I felt like denouncing them. I could not always 
curb my moral indignation for the perpetrators of slave- 
holding villainy long enough for a circumstantial state- 
ment of the facts which I felt almost sure everybody must 
know. Besides, I was growing, and needed room. 
" People won't believe you ever was a slave, Frederick, if 
you keep on this way," said friend Foster. " Be your- 
self," said Collins, " and tell your story." " Better have 
a little of the plantation speech than not," was said 


to me ; " it is not best that you seem too learned." These 
excellent friends were actuated by the best of motives, 
and were not altogether wrong in their advice ; and still I 
must speak just the word that seemed to me the word to 
be spoken hy me. 

At last the apprehended trouble came. People doubted 
if I had ever been a slave. They said I did not talk like a 
slave, look like a slave, nor act like a slave, and that they 
believed I had never been south of Mason and Dixon's line. 
" He don't tell us where he came from, what his master's 
name was, nor how he got away ; besides he is educated, and 
is in this a contradiction of all the facts we have concerning 
the ignorance of the slaves." Thus I was in a pretty fair 
way to be denounced as an impostor. The committee of 
the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society knew all the facts 
in my case, and agreed with me thus far in the prudence 
of keeping them private ; but going down the aisles 
of the churches in which my meetings were held, and 
hearing the outspoken Yankees repeatedly saying, " He's 
never been a slave, I'll warrant you," I resolved to dispel 
all doubt at no distant day by such a revelation of facts 
as could not be made by any other than a genuine fugi- 
tive. In a little less than four years, therefore, after 
becoming a public lecturer, I was induced to write out the 
leading facts connected with my experience in slavery, 
giving names of persons, places, and dates, thus putting it 
in the power of any who doubted to ascertain the truth or 
falsehood of my story. This statement soon became 
known in Maryland, and I had reason to believe that an 
effort would be made to recapture me. 

It is not probable that any open attempt to secure me 
as a slave could have succeeded further than the obtain- 
ment by my master of the money value of my bones and 
sinews. Fortunately for me, in the four years of my 
labors in the abolition cause I had gained many friends 


who would have suffered themselves to be taxed to almost 
any extent to save me from slavery. It was felt that I had 
committed the double offense of running away and exposing 
the secrets and crimes of slavery and slaveholders. There 
was a double motive for seeking my re-enslavement — 
avarice and vengeance ; and while, as I have said, there 
was little probability of successful recapture, if attempted 
openly, I was constantly in danger of being spirited away at 
a moment when my friends could render me no assistance. 
In traveling about from place to place, often alone, I was 
much exposed to this sort of attack. Any one cherishing 
the desire to betray me could easily do so by simply tracing 
my whereabouts through the anti-slavery journals, for my 
movements and meetings were made through these in ad- 
vance. My friends Mr. Garrison and Mr. Phillips had no 
faith in the power of Massachusetts to protect me in my 
right to liberty. Public sentiment and the law, in their 
opinion, would hand me over to the tormentors. Mr. 
Phillips especially considered me in danger, and said, 
when I showed him the manuscript of my story, if in my 
place he would " throw it into the fire." Thus the reader 
will observe that the overcoming of one difficulty only 
opened the way for another, and that though I had 
reached a free State, and had attained a position for 
public usefulness, I was still under the liability of losing 
all I had gained. 



Work in Rhode Island — Dorr War — Recollections of old friends — 
Further labors in Rhode Island and elsewhere in New England. 

IN the State of Rliode Island, under the leadership of 
Thomas W. Dorr, an effort was made in 1841 to set 
aside the old colonial charter, under which that State had 
lived and flourished since the Revolution, and to replace 
it with a new constitution having such improvements as it 
was thought that time and experience had shown to be 
wise and necessary. This new constitution was especially 
framed to enlarge the basis of representation so far as 
the white people of the State were concerned — to abolish 
an odious property qualification and to confine the right 
of suffrage to white male citizens only. Mr. Dorr was 
himself a well-meaning man, and, after his fashion, a man 
of broad and progressive views quite in advance of 
the party with which he acted. To gain their support he 
consented to this restriction to a class a right which 
ought to be enjoyed by all citizens. In this he consulted 
policy rather than right, and at last shared the fate of all 
compromisers and trimmers, for he was disastrously de- 
feated. The prescriptive features of his constitution 
shocked the sense of right and roused the moral indigna- 
tion of the abolitionists of the State, a class which would 
otherwise have gladly co-operated with him, at the same 
time that it did nothing to win support from the conserv- 
ative class which clung to the old charter. Anti-slavery 
men wanted a new constitution, but they did not want a 



defective instrument which required reform at the start. 
The result was that such men as William M. Chase, 
Thomas Davis, George L. Clark, Asa Fairbanks, Alphonso 
Janes, and others of Providence, the Ferry brothers 
of Westerly, John Brown and C. C. Eldridge of East 
Greenwich, Daniel Mitchell, William Adams, and Eobert 
Shove of Pawtucket, Peleg Clark, Caleb Kelton, G. J. 
Adams, and tlie Anthonys and Goulds of Coventry and 
vicinity, Edward Harris of Woonsocket, and other aboli- 
tionists of the State, decided that the time had come 
when the people of Rhode Island might be taught a more 
comprehensive gospel of human riglits than had gotten 
itself into this Dorr constitution. The public mind was 
awake, and one class of its people at least was ready to 
work with us to the extent of seeking to defeat the pro- 
posed constitution, though their reasons for such work 
were far different from ours. Steplien S. Foster, Parker 
Pillsbury, Abby Kelley, James Monroe, and myself were 
called into the State to advocate equal rights as against 
this narrow and prescriptive constitution. The work to 
which we were invited was not free from difficulty. The 
majority of the people were evidently with the new con- 
stitution ; even the word white in it chimed well with the 
popular prejudice against the colored race, and at the 
first helped to make the movement popular. On the 
other hand, all the arguments which the Dorr men could 
urge against a property qualification for suffrage were 
equally cogent against a color qualification, and this was 
our advantage. But the contest was intensely bitter and 
exciting. We were as usual denounced as intermeddlers 
(carpet-bagger had not come into use at that time), and 
were told to mind our own business, and the like, a mode 
of defense common to men when called to account for 
mean and discreditable conduct. Stephen S. Foster, 
Parker Pillsbury, and the rest of us were not the kind of 


men to be ordered off by that sort of opposition. We 
cared nothing for the Dorr party on the one liand, nor 
the " law and order party " on the other. What we 
wanted, and what we labored to obtain, was a constitution 
free from the narrow, selfish, and senseless limitation of 
the word white. Naturally enough, when we said a strong 
and striking word against the Dorr Constitution the con- 
servatives were pleased and applauded, while the Dorr 
men were disgusted and indignant. Foster and Pills- 
bury were like the rest of us, young, strong, and at their 
best in this contest. The splendid vehemence of the 
one, and the weird and terrible denunciations of the 
other, never failed to stir up mobocratic wrath wherever 
they spoke. Foster, especially, was effective in this line. 
His theory was that he must make converts or mobs. 
If neither came he charged it either to his want of skill 
or his unfaithfulness. I was much with Mr. Foster dur- 
ing the tour in Rhode Island, and though at times ho 
seemed to me extravagant and needlessly offensive in his 
manner of presenting his ideas, yet take him for all in all, 
he was one of the most impressive advocates the cause of 
the American slave ever had. No white man ever made the 
black man's cause more completely his own. Abby Kel- 
ley, since Abby Kelley Foster, was perhaps the most suc- 
cessful of any of us. Her youth and simple Quaker 
beauty, combined with her wonderful earnestness, her 
large knowledge and great logical power, bore down all 
opposition to the end, wherever she spoke, though she 
was before pelted with foul eggs, and no less foul words, 
from the noisy mobs which attended us. 

Monroe and I were less aggressive than either of our 
co-workers, and of course did not provoke the same 
resistance. He, at least, had the eloquence that charms, 
and the skill that disarms. I think that our labors in 
Rhode Island during this Dorr excitement did more to 


abolitionize the State than any previous or subsequent 
work. It was the " tide," " taken at the flood." One 
effect of those labors was to induce the old " Law and 
Order " party, when it set about making its new constitu- 
tion, to avoid the narrow folly of the Dorrites, and make 
a constitution which should not abridge any man's rights 
on account of race or color. Such a constitution was finally 

Owing perhaps to my efficiency in this campaign I 
was for awhile employed in further labors in Rhode 
Island by the State Anti-Slavery Society, and made there 
many friends to my cause as well as to myself. As a 
class the abolitionists of this State partook of the spirit 
of its founder. They had their own opinions, were inde- 
pendent, and called no man master. I have reason to 
remember them most gratefully. They received me as a 
man and a brother, when I was new from the house of 
bondage, and had few of the graces derived from free and 
refined society. They took me with earnest hand to 
their homes and hearths, and made me feel that though 
I wore the burnished livery of the sun I was still a coun- 
tryman and kinsman of whom they were never ashamed. 
I can never forget the Clarks, Keltons, Chases, BroAvns, 
Adams, Greenes, Sissons, Eldredges, Mitchells, Shoves, 
Anthonys, Applins, Janes, G-oulds, Fairbanks, and many 

While thus remembering the noble anti-slavery men 
and women of Rhode Island, I do not forget that I 
suffered much rough usage within her borders. It was 
like all the northern States at that time, under the 
influence of slave power, and often showed a prescriptive 
and persecuting spirit, especially upon its railways, steam- 
boats, and in its public houses. The Stonington route was 
a " hard road " for a colored man " to travel " in that day. 
I was several times dragged from the cars for the crime 

276 TRUE MEN. 

of being colored. On tlie Sound between New York and 
Stonington, there were the same proscriptions which I 
have before named as enforced on the steamboats runnintr 


between New York and Newport. No colored man was 
allowed abaft the wheel, and in all seasons of the year, 
in heat or cold, wet or dry, the deck was his only place. 
If I would lie down at night I must do so upon the freight 
on deck, and this in cold weather was not a very com- 
fortable bed. When traveling in company with my white 
friends I always urged them to leave me and go into the 
cabin and take their comfortable births. I saw no reason 
why they should be miserable because I was. Some of 
them took my advice very readily. I confess, however, 
that while I was entirely honest in urging them to go, 
and saw no principle that should bind them to stay and 
suffer with me, I always felt a little nearer to those who 
did not take my advice and persisted in sharing my hard- 
ships with me. 

There is something in the world above fixed rules and 
the logic of right and wrong, and there is some founda- 
tion for I'ecognizing works, which may be called works of 
supererogation. Wendell Phillips, James Monroe, and 
William White, were always dear to me for their nice 
feeling at this point. I have known James Monroe to 
pull his coat about him and crawl upon the cotton bales 
betAveen decks and pass the night with me, without a 
murmur. Wendell Phillips would never go into a first- 
class car while I was forced into what was called the 
Jim Crow car. True men they were, who could accept 
welcome at no man's table where I was refused. I speak 
of these gentlemen, not as singular or exceptional 
cases, but as representatives of a large class of the early 
workers for the abolition of slavery. As a general rule 
there was little difficulty in obtaining suitable places in 
New England after 1840, where I could plead the cause 


of 111}" people. The abolitionists had passsd the Red Sea 
of mobs, and had conquered the right to a respectful 
hearing. I, however, found several towns in which the 
people closed their doors and refused to entertain the 
subject. Notably among these was Hartford, Conn., and 
Grafton, Mass. In the former place Messrs. Grarrison, 
Hudson, Foster, Abby Kelley, and myself determined to 
hold our meetings under the open sky, which we did in a 
little court under the eaves of the " sanctuary " ministered 
unto by the Rev. Dr. Hawes, with much satisfaction to 
ourselves, and I think with advantage to our cause. In 
Grafton I was alone, and there was neither house, hall, 
church, nor market-place in which I could speak to the 
people ; but, determired to speah, I went to the hotel and 
borrowed a dinner-bell, with which in hand I passed 
through the principal streets, ringing the bell and crying 
out, " Notice ! Frederick Douglass, recently a slave, will 
lecture on American Slav^ery, on Grafton Common, this 
evening, at 7 o'clock. Those who would like to hear of 
the worlcings of slavery by one of the slaves are respect- 
fully invited to attend." This notice brought out a large 
audience, after which the largest church in town was 
open to me. Only in one instance was I compelled to 
pursue this course thereafter, and that was in Manches- 
ter, N. H., and my labors there were followed by similar 
results. When people found that I would be heard, they 
saw it was the part of wisdom to open the way for me. 

My treatment in the use of public conveyances about 
these times was extremely rough, especially on the 
" Eastern Railroad, from Boston to Portland." On that 
road, as on many others, there was a mean, dirty, 
and uncomfortable car set apart for colored travelers 
called the " Jim Crow " car. Regarding this as the fruit 
of slaveholding prejudice, and being determined to fight 
the spirit of slavery wherever I might find it, I resolved 


to avoid this car, though it sometimes required some 
courage to do so. The colored people generally accepted 
the situation, and complained of me as making matters 
worse rather than better by refusing to submit to this 
proscription. I, however, persisted, and sometimes was 
soundly beaten by conductor and brakeman. On one oc- 
casion six of these " fellows of the baser sort," under the 
direction of the conductor, set out to eject me from 
my seat. As usual, I had purchased a first-class ticket 
and paid the required sum for it, and on the requirement 
of the conductor to leave refused to do so, when he called 
on these men to " snake me out." They attempted to 
obey with an air which plainly told me they relished the 
job. They however found me much attached to my seat, 
and in removing me I tore away two or three of the sur- 
rounding ones, on which I held with a firm grasp, and did 
the car no service in some other respects. I was strong 
and muscular, and the seats were not then so firmly 
attached or of as solid make as now. The result was 
that Stephen A. Chase, superintendent of the road, 
ordered all passenger trains to pass through Lynn, where 
I then lived, without stopping. This was a great incon- 
venience to the people, large numbers of whom did busi- 
ness in Boston and at other points on the road. Led on, 
however, by James N. Buffum, Jonathan Buffum, Chris- 
topher Robinson, William Bassett, and others, the people 
of Lynn stood bravely by me, and denounced the railroad 
management in emphatic terms. Mr. Chase made reply 
that a railroad corporation was neither a religious nor re- 
formatory body ; that the road was run for the accommo- 
dation of the public, and that it required the exclusion of 
colored people from its cars. With an air of triumph he 
told us that we ought not to expect a railroad company to 
be better than the evangelical church, and that until the 
churches abolished the " negro pew " we ought not 


to expect the railroad company to abolish the negro car. 
This argument was certainly good enough as against the 
church, but good for nothing as against the demands 
of justice and equality. My old and dear friend J. N. 
Buffum made a point against the company that they 
" often allowed dogs and monkeys to ride in first-class 
cars, and yet excluded a man like Frederick Douglass ! " 
In a very few years this barbarous practice was put away, 
and I think there have been no instances of such exclu- 
sion during the past thirty years ; and colored people 
now, everywhere in New England, ride upon equal terms 
with other passengers. 



Anti-slavery conventions held in parts of New England and in some 
of the Middle and Western States— Mobs — Incidents, etc. 

THE year 1843 was one of remarkable anti-slavery ac- 
tivity. The New England Anti-Slavery Society, at 
its annual meeting held in the spring of that year, resolved, 
under the auspices of Mr. Garrison and his friends, to hold 
a series of one hundred conventions. The territory embraced 
in this plan for creating anti-slavery sentiment included 
New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Ohio, Indiana, and 
Pennsylvania. I had the honor to be chosen one of the 
agents to assist in these proposed conventions, and I never 
entered upon any work with more heart and hope. All 
that the American people needed, I thought, was light. 
Could they know slavery as I knew it, they would hasten 
to the work of its extinction. The corps of speakers who 
were to be associated with me in carrying on these con- 
ventions was Messrs. George Bradburn, John A. Collins, 
James Monroe, William A. White, Charles L. Remond, and 
Sydney Howard Gay. They were all masters of the sub- 
ject, and some of them able and eloquent orators. It was 
a piece of great good fortune to me, only a few years 
from slavery as I was, to be brought into contact with 
such men. It was a real campaign, and required nearly 
six months for its accomplishment. 

Those who only know the State of Vermont as it is to- 
day can hardly understand, and must wonder that 
there was need for anti-slavery effort within its borders 
forty years ago. Our first convention was held in Middle- 



bury, its chief seat of learning and the home of William 
Slade, wlio was for years the co-worker with John Quincy 
Adams in Congress ; and yet in this town the opposition 
to our anti-slavery convention was intensely bitter and 
violent. The only man of note in the town whom I now 
remember- as giving us sympathy or welcome was Mr. 
Edward Barber, who was a man of courage as well as 
ability, and did his best to make our convention a success. 
In advance of our arrival the college students had very 
industriously and mischievously placarded the town with 
violent aspersions of our characters and the grossest mis- 
representations of our principles, measures, and objects. 
I was described as an escaped convict from the State 
prison, and the other speakers were assailed not less 
slanderously. Few people attended our meeting, and ap- 
parently little was accomplished by it. In the neighbor- 
ing town of Ferrisburgh the case was different and more 
favorable. The way had been prepared for us by such 
stalwart anti-slavery workers as Orson S. Murray, Charles 
C. Burleigh, Rowland T. Robinson, and others. Upon 
the whole, however, the several towns visited showed that 
Vermont was surprisingly under the influence of the slave 
power. Her proud boast that no slave had ever been 
delivered up to his master within her borders did not 
hinder her hatred to anti-sloiYeYj, What was true of the 
Green Mountain State in this respect was most discourag- 
ingly true of New York, the State next visited. All 
along the Erie canal, from Albany to Buffalo, there was 
apathy, indifference, aversion, and sometimes mobocratic 
spirit evinced. Even Syracuse, afterward the home of 
the humane Samuel J. May and the scene of the " Jerry 
rescue," where Gerrit Smith, Beriah Greene, William 
Goodell, Alvin Stewart, and other able men since taught 
their noblest lessons, would not at that time furnish 
us with church, market, house, or hall in which to hold 


our meetings. Discovering this state of things, some of 
our number were disposed to turn our backs upon the town 
and shake its dust from our feet, but of these, I am glad 
to say, I was not one. I had somewhere read of a com- 
mand to go into the hedges and highways and compel 
men to come in. Mr. Stephen Smith, under whose hos- 
pitable roof we were made at home, thought as I did. It 
would be easy to silence anti-slavery agitation if refusing 
its agents the use of halls and churches could affect that 
result. The house of our friend Smith stood on the 
southwest corner of the park, which was well covered 
with young trees too small to furnish shade or shelter, but 
better than none. Taking my stand under a small tree 
in the southeast corner of this park I began to speak in 
the morning to an audience of five persons, and before the 
close of my afternoon meeting I had before me not less 
than five hundred. In the evening I was waited upon by 
officers of the Congregational church and tendered the 
use of an old wooden building which they had deserted for 
a better, but still owned, and here our convention was 
continued during three days. I believe there has been no 
trouble to find places in Syracuse in which to hold anti- 
slavery meetings since. I never go there without en- 
deavoring to see that tree, which, like the cause it 
sheltered, has grown large and strong and imposing. 

I believe my first offense against our Anti-Slavery 
Israel was committed during these Syracuse meetings. 
It was on this wise : Our general agent, John A. Collins, 
had recently returned from England full of communistic 
ideas, which ideas would do away with individual prop- 
erty, and have all things in common. He had arranged 
a corps of speakers of his communistic persuasion, con- 
sisting of John 0. Wattles, Nathaniel Whiting, and John 
Orvis, to follow our anti-slavery conventions, and while 
our meeting was in progress in Syracuse, a meeting, as 



the reader will observe, obtained under much difficulty, 
Mr. Collins came in with his new friends and doctrines, 
and proposed to adjourn our anti-slavery discussions and 
take up the subject of communism. To this I ventured 
to object. I held that it was imposing an additional 
burden of unpopularity on our cause, and an act of bad 
faith with the people, who paid tlie salary of Mr. Collins, 
and were responsible for these hundred conventions. 
Strange to say, my course in this matter did not meet 
the approval of Mrs. M. W. Chapman, an influential mem- 
ber of the board of managers of the Massachusetts Anti- 
Slavery Society, and called out a sharp reprimand from 
her, for insubordination to my superiors. This was a 
strange and distressing revelation to me, and one of 
which I was not soon relieved. I thought I had only 
done my duty, and I think so still. The chief reason for 
the reprimand was the use which the liberty party-papers 
would make of my seeming rebellion against the com- 
manders of our anti-slavery army. 

In the growing city of Rochester we had in every way 
a better reception. Abolitionists of all shades of opinion 
were broad enough to give tlie Garrisonians (for such we 
were) a hearing. Samuel D. Porter and the Avery 
family, though they belonged to the Gerrit Smith, Myron 
Holly, and William Goodell school, were not so narrow 
as to refuse us the use of their church for the convention. 
They heard our moral suasion arguments, and in a manly 
way met us in debate. We were opposed to carrying the 
anti-slavery cause to the ballot-box, and they believed in 
carrying it there. They looked at slavery as a creature 
of law ; we regarded it as a creature of public opinion. 
It is surprising how small the difference appears as I 
look back to it, over the space of forty years ; yet at the 
time of it this difference was immense. 

During our stay at Rochester we were hospitably enter- 



taincd by Isaac and Amy Post, two people of all-abound- 
ing benevolence, the truest and best of Long Island and 
Elias Hicks Quakers. They were not more amiable than 
brave, for they never seemed to ask, What will the world 
say ? but walked straight forward in what seemed to them 
the line of duty, please or offend whomsoever it might. 
Many a poor fugitive slave found shelter under their roof 
when such shelter was hard to find elsewhere, and I men- 
tion them here in the warmth and fullness of earnest 

Pleased with our success in Rochester, we — that is, Mr. 
Bradburn and myself — made our way to Buffalo, then a 
rising city of steamboats, bustle, and business. Buffalo 
was too busy to attend to such matters as we had in 
hand. Our friend, Mr. Marsh, had been able to secure 
for our convention only an old dilapidated and deserted 
room, formerly used as a post-office. We went at the 
time appointed, and found seated a few cabmen in their 
coarse, every-day clothes, wliips in hand, while their 
teams were standing on the street waiting for a job. 
Friend Bradburn looked around upon this unpromising 
audience, and turned upon his heel, saying he would not 
speak to " such a set of ragamuffins," and took the first 
steamer to Cleveland, the home of his brother Charles, 
and left me to " do " Buffalo alone. For nearly a week 
I spoke every day in this old post-office to audiences 
constantly increasing in numbers and respectability, till 
the Baptist church was thrown open to me ; and when 
this became too small I went on Sunday into the open 
Park and addressed an assembly of four or five thousand 
persons. After this my colored friends, Charles L. Bc- 
mond, Henry Highland Garnett, Theodore S. Wright, 
Amos G. Beaman, Charles M. Bay, and other well-known 
colored men held a convention here, and then Bemond 
and myself left for our next meeting in Clinton county, 

Fighting the Mob in Indiana. 


Ohio. This was held under a great shed, built by the 
abolitionists, of whom Dr. Abram Brook and Valentine 
Nicholson were the most noted, for this special purpose. 
Thousands gathered here and were addressed by Brad- 
burn, White, Monroe, Remond, Gay, and myself. The 
influence of this meeting was deep and wide-spread. It 
would be tedious to tell of all, or a small part of all that 
was interesting and illustrative of the difficulties encoun- 
tered by the early advocates of anti-slavery in connection 
with this campaign, and hence I leave this part of it 
at once. 

From Ohio we divided our forces and went into Indi- 
ana. At our first meeting we were mobbed, and some of 
us got our good clothes spoiled by evil-smelling eggs. 
This was at Richmond, where Henry Clay had been 
recently invited to the high seat of the Quaker meeting- 
house just after his gross abuse of Mr. Mendenhall, 
because of his presenting him a respectful petition, ask- 
ing him to emancipate his slaves. At Pendleton this 
mobocratic spirit was even more pronounced. It was 
found impossible to obtain a building in which to hold 
our convention, and our friends. Dr. Fussell and others, 
erected a platform in the woods, where quite a large 
audience assembled. Mr. Bradburn, Mr. White, and my- 
self were in attendance. As soon as we began to speak 
a mob of about sixty of the roughest characters I ever 
looked upon ordered us, through its leaders, to " be 
silent," threatening us, if we were not, with violence. 
We attempted to dissuade them, but they had not come 
to parley but to fight, and were well armed. They tore 
down the -platform on which we stood, assaulted Mr. 
White and knocked out several of his teeth, dealt a 
heavy blow on William A. White, striking him on the 
back part of the head, badly cutting his scalp and felling 
him to the ground. Undertaking to fight my way through 


the crowd with a stick which I caught up in the melde, 
I attracted the fury of the mob, which hiid me prostrate 
on the ground under a torrent of blows. Leaving me 
thus, with my right hand broken, and in a state of uncon- 
sciousness, the mobocrats hastily mounted their horses 
and rode to Andersonville, where most of them resided. 
I was soon raised up and revived by Neal Hardy, a kind- 
hearted member of the Society of Friends, and carried by 
him in his wagon about three miles in tlie country to his 
home, where I was tenderly nursed ajid bandaged by 
good Mrs. Hardy till I was again on my feet ; but, as the 
bones broken were not properly set, my hand has never 
recovered its natural strength and dexterity. We 
lingered long in Indiana, and the good effects of our 
labors there are felt at this day. I have lately visited 
Pendleton, now one of the best republican towns in the 
State, and looked again upon the spot where I was beaten 
down, and have again taken by the hand some of the 
witnesses of that scene, amongst whom was the kind, 
good lady — Mrs. Hardy — who, so like the good Sama- 
ritan of old, bound up my wounds, and cared for me so 
kindly. A complete history of these hundred conventions 
would fill a volume far larger than the one in which this 
simple reference is to find a place. It would be a grate- 
ful duty to speak of the noble young men who forsook 
ease and pleasure, as did White, Gay, and Monroe, and 
endured all manner of privations in the cause of the en- 
slaved and down-trodden of my race. Gay, Monroe, and 
myself are the only ones who participated as agents in 
the one hundred conventions who now survive. Mr. Mon- 
roe was for many years consul to Brazil, and has since 
been a faithful member of Congress from the Oberlin 
District, Ohio, and has filled other important positions in 
his State. Mr. Gay was managing editor of the National 
Anti-Slavery Standard^ and afterwards of the New York 
Tribune^ and still later of the New York Evening Post, 



Danger to be averted — A refuge sought abroad — Voyage on the steam- 
ship Cambria — Refusal of first-class passage — Attractions of the 
forecastle-deck — Hutchinson family — Invited to make a speech — 
Southerners feel insulted — Captain threatens to put them in irons 
— Experiences abroad — Attentions received — Impressions of differ- 
ent members of Parliament and of other public men — Contrast 
with life in America — Kindness of friends — Their purchase of my 
person and the gift of the same to myself — My return. 

AS I have before intimated, the publishing of my 
" Narrative " was regarded by my friends with 
mingled feelings of satisfaction and apprehension. They 
were glad to have the doubts and insinuations which the 
advocates and apologists of slavery had made against me 
proved to the world to be false, but they had many fears 
lest this very proof would endanger my safety, and make 
it necessary for me to leave a position which in a signal 
manner had opened before me, and one in which I had 
thus far been efficient in assisting to arouse the moral 
sentiment of the community against a system which had 
deprived me, in common with my fellow-slaves, of all the 
attributes of manhood. 

I became myself painfully alive to the liability which 
surrounded me, and which might at any moment scatter 
all my proud hopes and return me to a doom worse than 
death. It was thus I was led to seek a refuge in mon- 
archical England from the dangers of republican slavery. 
A rude, uncultivated fugitive slave, I was driven to that 
country to which American young gentlemen go to 
increase their stock of knowledge, to seek pleasure, and 



to have their rough democratic manners softened by con- 
tact with English aristocratic refinement. 

My friend James N. Buft'um of Lynn, Mass., who was to 
accompany me, applied on board the steamer Cambria of 
the Cimard line for tickets, and was told that I could not 
be received as a cabin passenger. American prejudice 
against color had triumphed over British liberality and 
civilization, and had erected a color test as condition for 
crossing the sea in the cabin of a British vessel. 

The insult was keenly felt by my white friends, but to 
me such insults were so frequent and expected that it was 
of no great consequence whether I went in the cabin or in 
the steerage. Moreover, I felt that if I could not go 
in the first cabin, first cabin passengers could come in the 
second cabin, and in this thought I was not mistaken, as 
I soon found myself an object of more general interest 
than I wished to be, and, so far from being degraded by 
being placed in the second cabin, that part of the ship 
became the scene of as much pleasure and refinement as 
the cabin itself. The Hutchinson family from New 
Hampshire — the sweet singers of anti-slavery and the 
" good time coming " — were fellow-passengers, and often 
came to my rude forecastle-deck and sang their sweetest 
songs, making the place eloquent with music and alive 
with spirited conversation. Tliey not only visited me, 
but invited me to visit them, and in two or three 
days after leaving Boston one part of the ship was about 
as free to me as another. My visits there, however, were 
but seldom. I preferred to live within my privileges and 
keep upon my own premises. This course was quite 
as much in accord with good policy as with my own feel- 
ings. The effect was that with the majority of the pas- 
sengers all color distinctions were flung to the winds, and 
I found myself treated with every mark of respect from the 
beginning to the end of the voyage, except in one single 


instance, and in that I came near being mobbed for com- 
plying with an invitation given me by the passengers and 
the captain of the Cambria to deliver a lecture on slavery. 
There were several young men, passengers from Georgia 
and New Orleans, and they were pleased to regard my lec- 
ture as an insult offered to them, and swore I should not 
speak. They went so far as to threaten to throw me 
overboard, and but for the firmness of Captain Judkins 
they would probably, under the inspiration of slavery and 
brandy, have attempted to put their threats into execution. 
I have no space to describe this scene, although its tragic 
and comic features are well worth describing. An end 
was put to the melee by the captain's call to the ship's 
company to put the salt-water mobocrats in irons, at 
which determined order the gentlemen of the lash scam- 
pered, and for the remainder of the voyage conducted 
themselves very decorously. 

This incident of the voyage brought me within two 
days after landing at Liverpool before the British public. 
The gentlemen so promptly withheld in their attempted 
violence toward me flew to the press to justify their con- 
duct and to denounce me as a worthless and insolent 
negro. This course was even less wise than the conduct 
it was intended to sustain, for, besides awakening some- 
thing like a national interest in me, and securing me an 
audience, it brought out counter statements and threw the 
blame upon themselves which they had sought to fasten 
upon me and the gallant captain of the ship. 

My visit to England did much for me every way. Not 
the least among the many advantages derived from it was 
in the opportunity it afforded me of becoming acquainted 
with educated people and of seeing and hearing many of 
the most distinguished men of that country. My friend Mr. 
Wendell Phillips, knowing something of my appreciation 
of orators and oratory, had said to me before leaving 


Boston: "Although Americans are generally better 
speakers than Englishmen, you will find in England indi- 
vidual orators superior to the best of ours." I do not 
know that Mr. Phillips w^as quite just to himself in this 
remark, for I found few, if any, superior to him in 
the gift of speech. When I went to England that country 
was in the midst of a tremendous agitation. The people 
were divided by tw^o great questions of " Repeal " — the 
repeal of the corn laws and the repeal of the union 
between England and Ireland. 

Debate ran high in Parliament and among the people 
everywhere, especially concerning the corn laws. Two 
powerful interests of the country confronted each other — 
one venerable from age, and the other young, stalwart, 
and growing. Both strove for ascendancy. Conservatism 
united for retaining the corn laws, while the rising power 
of commerce and manufactures demanded repeal. It was 
interest against interest, but something more and deeper, 
for while there was aggrandizement of the landed aristoc- 
racy on the one side, there was famine and pestilence on 
the other. Of the anti-corn-law movement Richard 
Cobden and John Bright, both then members of Parlia- 
ment, were the leaders. They were the rising statesmen 
of England, and possessed a very friendly disposition 
toward America. Mr. Bright, who is now Right Honor- 
able John Bright, and occupies a high place in the British 
cabinet, was friendly to the loyal and progressive spirit 
which abolished our slavery and saved our country from 
dismemberment. I have seen and heard both of these 
men, and, if I may be allowed so much egotism, I may say 
I was acquainted with both of them. I was, besides, 
a welcome guest at the house of Mr. Bright in Rochdale, 
and treated as a friend and brother among his brothers 
and sisters. Messrs. Cobden and Bright were well- 
matched leaders. One was in large measure the comple- 


ment of the other. They were spoken of usually as 
Cobden and Bright, but there was no reason, except that 
Cobden was the elder of the two, why their names might 
not have been reversed. 

They were about equally fitted for their respective parts 
in the great movement of which they were the distin- 
guished leaders, and neither was likely to encroach upon 
the work of the other. The contrast was quite marked in 
their persons as well as in their oratory. The powerful 
speeches of the one, as they traveled together over the 
country, heightened the effect of the speeches of the 
other, so that their difference was about as effective for 
good as was their agreement. Mr. Cobden — for an 
Englishman — was lean, tall, and slightly sallow, and 
might have been taken for an American or Frenchman. 
Mr. Bright was, in the broadest sense, an Englishman, 
abounding in all the physical perfections peculiar to his 
countrymen — full, round, and ruddy. Cobden had dark 
eyes and hair, a well-formed head high above his shoul- 
ders, and, when sitting quiet, had a look of sadness and 
fatigue. In the House of Commons he often sat with one 
hand supporting his head. Bright appeared the very op- 
posite in this and other respects. His eyes were blue, his 
hair light, his head massive and firmly set upon his 
shoulders, suggesting immense energy and determination. 
In his oratory Mr. Cobden was cool, candid, deliberate, 
straightforward, yet at times slightly hesitating. Bright, 
on the other hand, was fervid, fluent, rapid ; always ready 
in thought or word. Mr. Cobden was full of facts and 
figures, dealing in statistics by the hour. Mr. Bright was 
full of wit, knowledge, and pathos, and possessed amazing 
power of expression. One spoke to the cold, calculating 
side of the British nation, which asks "if the new 
idea will pay ? " The other spoke to the infinite side of 
human nature — the side which asks, first of all, " Is 


it right ? is it just ? is it humane ? " Wherever these 
two great men appeared the people assembled in thou- 
sands. They could, at an hour's notice, pack the Town 
Hall of Birmingham, which would hold seven thousand 
persons, or the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, and Covent 
Garden theater, London, each of which was capable of 
holding eight thousand. 

One of the first attentions shown me by these gentle- 
men was to make me welcome at the Free-Trade Club, in 

I was not long in England before a crisis was reached 
in the anti-corn-law movement. The announcement that 
Sir Robert Peel, then prime minister of England, had be- 
come a convert to the views of Messrs. Cobden and 
Bright, came upon the country with startling effect, and 
formed the turning-point in the anti-corn-law question. 
Sir Robert had been the strong defense of the landed 
aristocracy of England, and his defection left them with- 
out a competent leader ; and just here came the opportu- 
nity for Mr. Benjamin Disraeli, the Hebrew, since Lord 
Beaconsfield. To him it was in public affairs the " tide 
which led on to fortune." With a bitterness unsurpassed 
he had been denounced, by reason of his being a Jew, as a 
lineal descendant of the thief on the cross. But now his 
time had come, and he was not the man to permit 
it to pass unimproved. For the first time, it seems, he 
conceived the idea of placing himself at the head of a great 
party, and thus become the chief defender of the landed 
aristocracy. The way was plain. He was to transcend 
all others in effective denunciation of Sir Robert Peel, and 
surpass all others in zeal. His ability was equal to 
the situation, and the world knows the result of his ambi- 
tion. I watched him narrowly when I saw him in the 
House of Commons, but I saw and heard nothing there 
that foreshadowed the immense space he at last came to 


fill in the mind of his country and the world. He had 
nothing of the grace and warmth of Peel in debate, and 
his speeches were better in print than when listened to ; 
yet when he spoke all eyes were fixed and all ears attent. 
Despite all his ability and power, however, as the defend- 
er of the landed interests of England, his cause was 
already lost. The increasing power of the anti-corn-law 
league, the burden of the tax upon bread, the cry of dis- 
tress coming from famine-stricken Ireland, and the ad- 
hesion of Peel to the views of Cobden and Bright, made 
the repeal of the corn laws speedy and certain. 

The repeal of the union between England and Ireland 
was not so fortunate. It is still, under one name or an- 
other, the cherished hope and inspiration of her sons. It 
stands little better or stronger than it did six and thirty 
years ago, when its greatest advocate, Daniel O'Connell, 
welcomed me to Ireland and to " Conciliation Hall," and 
where I first liad a specimen of his truly wondrous elo- 
quence. Until I heard this man I had thought that the 
story of his oratory and power were greatly exaggerated. 
I did not see how a man could speak to twenty or thirty 
thousand people at one time and be heard by any consid- 
erable portion of them, but the mystery was solved when 
I saw his vast person and heard his musical voice. His 
eloquence came down upon the vast assembly like a sum- 
mer thunder-shower upon a dusty road. He could stir 
the multitude at will to a tempest of wrath or reduce it to 
the silence with which a mother leaves the cradle-side of 
her sleeping babe. Such tenderness, such pathos, such 
world-embracing love ! — and, on the other hand, such in- 
dignation, such fiery and thunderous denunciation, such 
wit and humor, I never heard surpassed, if equaled, at home 
or abroad. He held Ireland within the grasp of his 
strong hand, and could lead it whithersoever he would, 
for Ireland believed in him and loved him as she has 

296 0. A. BROWNSON. 

loved and believed in no leader since. In Dublin, when 
he had been absent from that city a few weeks, I saw him 
followed through Sackville street by a multitude of little 
boys and girls, shouting in loving accents, " There 
goes Dan ! there goes Dan ! " while he looked at the 
ragged and shoeless crowd with the kindly air of a loving 
parent returning to his gleeful children. He was called 
*' The Liberator," and not without cause, for, though he 
failed to effect the repeal of the union between England 
and Ireland, he fought out the battle of Catholic eman- 
cipation, and was clearly the friend of liberty the world 
over. In introducing me to an immense audience in 
Conciliation Hall he playfully called me the " Black 0' Cou- 
ncil of the United States." Nor did he let the occasion 
pass without his usual word of denunciation of our slave 
system. 0. A. Brownson had then recently become a 
Catholic, and taking advantage of his new Catholic audi- 
ence in " Brownson's Beview,^^ had charged O'Connell 
with attacking American institutions. In reply Mr. 
O'Connell said : " I am charged with attacking American 
institutions, as slavery is called ; I am not ashamed 
of this attack. My sympathy is not confined to the nar- 
row limits of my own green Ireland ; my spirit walks 
abroad upon sea and land, and wherever there is oppres- 
sion I hate the oppressor, and wherever the tyrant rears 
his head I will deal my bolts upon it, and wherever there 
is sorrow and suffering, there is my spirit to succor and 
relieve." No transatlantic statesman bore a testimony 
more marked and telling against the crime and curse of 
slavery than did Daniel O'Connell. He would shake the 
hand of no slaveholder, nor allow himself to be introduced 
to one if he knew him to be such. When the friends of 
repeal in the Southern States sent him money with which 
to carry on his work, he, with ineffable scorn, refused the 
bribe and sent back what he considered the blood-stained 


offering, saying he would " never purchase the freedom of 
Ireland with the price of slaves." 

It was not long after my seeing Mr. O'Connell that his 
health broke down, and his career ended in death. I 
felt that a great champion of freedom had fallen, and that 
the cause of the American slave, not less than the cause 
of his country, had met with a great loss. All the more 
was this felt when I saw the kind of men who came to 
the front when the voice of O'Connell was no longer 
heard in Ireland. He was succeeded by the Duffys, 
Mitchells, Meagher, and others, — men who loved liberty 
for themselves and their country, but were utterly desti- 
tute of sympathy with the cause of liberty in countries 
other than their own. One of the first utterances of 
John Mitchell on reaching this country, from his exile 
and bondage, was a wish for a " slave plantation, well 
stocked with slaves." 

Besides hearing Cobden, Bright, Peel, Disraeli, O'Con- 
nell, Lord John Russell, and other Parliamentary debaters, 
it was my good fortune to hear Lord Brougham when 
nearly at his best. He was then a little over sixty, and 
that for a British statesman is not considered old ; and 
in his case there were thirty years of life still before 
him. He struck me as the most wonderful speaker of 
them all. How he was ever reported I cannot imagine. 
Listening to him was like standing near the track of a 
railway train, drawn by a locomotive at the rate of forty 
miles an hour. You were riveted to the spot, charmed 
with the sublime spectacle of speed and power, but could 
give no description of the carriages, nor of the passengers 
at the windows. There was so much to see and hear, 
and so little time left the beholder and hearer to note 
particulars, that when this strange man sat down you 
felt like one who had hastily passed through the wilder- 
ing wonders of a world's exhibition. On the occasion of 


my listening to liim, his speech was on the postal rela- 
tions of England with the outside world, and he seemed 
to have a i)ei*fect knowledge of the postal arrangements 
of every nation in Europe, and, indeed, in the whole uni- 
verse. He possessed the great advantage, so valuable to 
a Parliamentary debater, of being able to make all inter- 
ruptions serve the purpose of his thought and speech, 
and carry on a dialogue with several persons without 
interrupting tlie rapid current of his reasoning. I had 
more curiosity to see and hear this man than any other 
in England, and he more than fulfilled my expectations. 

While in England, I saw few literary celebrities, except 
William and Mary Howitt, and Sir John Bowering. I 
was invited to breakfast by the latter in company with 
Wm. Lloyd Garrison, and spent a delightful morning 
with him, chiefly as a listener to their conversation. Sir 
John was a poet, a statesman, and a diplomat, and had 
represented England as minister to China. He was full of 
interesting information, and had a charming way of impart- 
ing his knowledge. The conversation was about slavery and 
about China, and as my knowledge was very slender about 
the " Flowery Kingdom " and its people, I was greatly inter- 
ested in Sir John's description of the ideas and manners 
prevailing among them. According to him, the doctrine 
of substitution was carried so far in that country that 
men sometimes procured others to suffer even the penalty 
of death in their stead. Justice seemed not intent upon 
the punishment of the actual criminal, if only somebody 
was punished when the law was violated. 

William and Mary Howitt were among the kindliest 
people I ever met. Their interest in America, and their 
well-known testimonies against slavery, made me feel 
much at home with them at their house in that part of 
London known as Clapham. Whilst stopping here, I met 
the Swedish poet and author — Hans Christian Andersen. 


He, like myself, was a guest, spending a few days. I 
saw but little of him though under the same roof. He 
was singular in his appearance, and equally singular in 
his silence. His mind seemed to me all the while turned 
inwardly. He walked about the beautiful garden as one 
might in a dream. The Hewitts had translated his works 
into English, and could of course address him in his own 
language. Possibly his bad English, and my destitution 
of Swedish, may account for the fact of our mutual 
silence, and yet I observed he was much the same towards 
every one. Mr. and Mrs. Howitt were indefatigable 
writers. Two more industrious and kind-hearted people 
did not breathe. With all their literary work, they 
always had time to devote to strangers, and to all benevo- 
lent efforts to ameliorate the condition of the poor and 
needy. Quakers though they were, they took deep 
interest in the Hutchinsons — Judson, John, Asa, and 
Abby — who were much at their house during my stay 
there. Mrs. Howitt not inaptly styled them a " Band of 
young apostles.^^ They sang for the oppressed and the 
poor — for liberty and humanity. 

Whilst in Edinburgh, so famous for its beauty, its 
educational institutions, its literary men, and its history, 
I had a very intense desire gratified — and that was to see 
and converse with George Combe, the eminent mental 
philosopher, and author of " Combe's Constitution of 
Man," a book which had been placed in my hands a few 
years before, by Doctor Peleg Clark of Rhode Island, the 
reading of which had relieved my path of many shadows. 
In company with George Thompson, James N. Buffum, 
and William L. Garrison, I had the honor to be invited 
by Mr. Combe to breakfast, and the occasion was one of 
the most delightful I met in dear old Scotland. Of course, 
in tlie presence of such men, my part was a very subordi- 
nate one. I was a listener. Mr. Combe did the most of the 


talking, and did it so well that nobody felt like interposing 
a word, except so far as to draw him on. He discussed the 
corn laws, and the proposal to reduce the hours of labor. 
He looked at all political and social questions through 
his peculiar mental science. His manner was remarkably 
quiet, and he spoke as not expecting opposition to his 
views. Phrenology explained everything to him, from 
the finite to the infinite. I look back to the morning 
spent with this singularly clear-headed man with much 

It would detain the reader too long, and make this 
volume too large, to tell of the many kindnesses shown 
me while abroad, or even to mention all the great and 
noteworthy persons who gave me a friendly hand and a 
cordial welcome ; but there is one other, now long gone 
to his rest, of whom a few words must be spoken, and 
that one was Thomas Clarkson — the last of the noble line 
of Englishmen who inaugurated tlie anti-slavery move- 
ment for England and the civilized world — the life-long 
friend and co-worker with Granville Sharpe, William 
Wilberforce, Thomas Fowell Buxton, and other leaders 
in that great reform which nearly put an end to slavery 
in all parts of the globe. As in the case of George 
Combe, I went to see Mr. Clarkson in company with 
Messrs. Garrison and Thompson. They had by note 
advised him of our coming, and had received one in 
reply, bidding us welcome. We found the venerable 
object of our visit seated at a table where he had been 
busily writing a letter to America against slavery ; for 
though in his eighty-seventh year, he continued to write. 
When we were presented to him, he rose to receive us. 
The scene was impressive. It was the meeting of two 
centuries. Garrison, Thompson, and myself were young 
men. After shaking hands with my two distinguished 
friends, and giving them welcome, he took one of my 

author's reflections. 801 

liands ill both of his, and, in a tremulous voice, said, 
" God bless you, Frederick Douglass ! I have given 
sixty years of my life to the emancipation of your 
people, and if I had sixty years more they should all be 
given to the same cause." O^ir stay was short with this 
great-hearted old man. He was feeble, and our presence 
greatly excited him, and we left the house with something 
of the feeling with which a man takes final leave of a 
beloved friend at the edge of the grave. 

Some notion may be formed of the difference in my 
feelings and circumstances while abroad, from an extract 
from one of a series of letters addressed by me to Mr. 
Garrison, and published in the Liberator, It was written 
on the 1st day of January, 1864 : 

" My Bear Friend Garnson : 

"Up to this time, I have given no direct expression of the views, 
feelings, and opinions which I have formed respecting the cliaracter 
and condition of the people of this land. I have refrained thus pur- 
posely. I wish to speak advisedly, and in order to do this, I have 
waited till, I trust, experience has brought my opinion to an intelli- 
gent maturity, I have been thus careful, not because I think what I 
say will have much effect in shaping the opinions of the world, but 
because what influence I may possess, whether little or much, I wish 
to go in the right direction, and according to truth. I hardly need 
say that in speaking of Ireland I shall be influenced by no prejudices 
in favor of America. I think my circumstances all forbid that. I 
have no end to serve, no creed to uphold, no government to defend ; 
and as to nation, I belong to none. I have no protection at home, or 
resting-place abroad. The land of my birth welcomes me to her 
shores only as a slave, and spurns with contempt the idea of treating 
me differently; so that I am an outcast from the society of my child- 
hood, and an outlaw in the land of my birth. ' I am a stranger with 
thee and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.' That men should be 
patriotic, is to me perfectly natural ; and as a philosophical fact, I am 
able to give it an intellectual recognition. But no further can I go. 
If ever I had any patriotism, or any capacity for the feeling, it was 
whipped out of me long since by the lash of the American soul- 
drivers. In thinking of America, I sometimes find myself admiring 
her bright blue sky, her grand old woods, her fertile fields, her beau- 
tiful rivers, her mighty lakes, and star-crowned mountains. But my 


rapture is soon checked — my joy is soon turned to mourning. "When 
I remember that all is cursed with the infernal spirit of slaveholding, 
robbery, and wrong ; when I remember that with the waters of her 
noblest rivers the tears of my brethren are borne to the ocean, disre- 
garded and forgotten, and that her most fertile fields drink daily of 
the warm blood of my outraged sisters, I am filled with unutterable 
loathing, and led to reproach myself that anything could fall from 
my lips in praise of such a land. America will not allow her children 
to love her. She seems bent on compelling those who would be her 
warmest friends to be her worst enemies. May God give her repent- 
ance before it is too late, is the ardent prayer of my heart. I will 
continue to pray, labor, and wait, believing that she cannot always 
be insensible to the dictates of justice, or deaf to the voice of human- 
ity. My opportunities for learning the character and condition of the 
people of this land have been very great. I have traveled from the 
Hill of Howth to the Giant's Causeway, and from the Giant's Cause- 
way to Cape Clear. During these travels I have met with much in the 
character and condition of the people to approve, and much to condemn ; 
much that has thrilled me with pleasure, and much that has filled me 
with pain. I will not, in this letter, attempt to give any description of 
those scenes which give me pain. This I will do hereafter. I have said 
enough, and more than your subscribers will be disposed to read at 
one time, of the bright side of the picture. I can trul}^ say I have 
spent some of the happiest days of my life since landing in this coun- 
try. I seem to have undergone a transformation. I live a new life. 
The warm and generous cooperation extended to me by the friends of 
my despised race ; the prompt and liberal manner with which the 
press has rendered me its aid ; the glorious enthusiasm with which 
thousands have flocked to hear the cruel wrongs of my dov/n-trodden 
and long-enslaved fellow-countrymen portrayed ; the deep sympathy 
for the slave, and the strong abhorrence of the slaveholder, everywhere 
evinced ; the cordiality with which members and ministers of various 
religious bodies, and of various shades of religious opinion, have em 
braced me and lent me their aid ; the kind hospitality constantly prof- 
fered me by persons of the highest rank in society ; the spirit of free- 
dom that seems to animate all with whom I come in contact, and the 
entire absence of everything that looks like prejudice against me, on 
account of the color of my skin, contrasts so strongly with my long 
and bitter experience in the United States, that I look with wonder 
and amazement on the transition. In the southern part of the United 
States, I was a slave — thought of and spoken of as property ; in the 
language of law, ' held, taken, reputed, and adjudged to be a chattel 
in the hands of my owners and possessors, and their executors, 
administrators, and assigns, to all intents, constructions, and pur- 


poses, whatsoever,' (Brev. Digest., 224.) In the Northern States, a 
fugitive slave, liable to be hunted at any moment like a felon, and to 
be hurled into the terrible jaws of slavery — doomed, by an inveterate 
prejudice against color, to insult and outrage on every hand (Massa- 
chusetts out of the question) — denied the privileges and courtesies 
common to others in the use of the most humble means of conveyance 
— shut out from the cabins on steamboats, refused admission to 
respectable hotels, caricatured, scorned, scolfed, mocked and mal- 
treated with impunity by any one, no matter how black his heart, so 
he has a white skin. But now behold the change ! Eleven days and 
a half gone, and I have crossed three thousand miles of perilous 
deep. Instead of a democratic government, I am under a monarchial 
government. Instead of the bright, blue sky of America, I am 
covered with the soft, gray fog of the Emerald Isle, I breathe, and 
lo ! the chattel becomes a man ! I gaze around in vain for one who 
vdll question my equal humanity, claim me as a slave, or offer me an 
insult. I employ a cab — I am seated beside white people — I reach the 
hotel — I enter the same door — I am shown into the same parlor — I 
dine at the same table — and no one is offended. No delicate nose 
grows deformed in my presence. I find no difficulty here in obtain- 
ing admission into any place of worship, instruction or amusement, 
on equal terms with people as white as any I ever saw in the United 
States. I meet nothing to remind me of my complexion. I find my- 
salf regarded and treated at every turn with the kindness and defer- 
ence paid to white people. When I go to church I am met by no 
upturned nose and scornful lip, to tell me — * We don't allow niggers 
in here.'" 

I remember about two years ago there was in Boston, 
near the southwest corner of Boston Common, a menag- 
erie. I had long desired to see such a collection as I 
understood was being exhibited there. Never having had 
an opportunity while a slave, I resolved to seize this, 
and as I approached the entrance to gain admission, I 
was told by the door-keeper, in a harsh and contemptu- 
ous tone, " We don't allow nigger sin JiereP I also remem- 
ber attending a revival meeting in the Rev. Henry Jack- 
son's meeting-house, at New Bedford, and going up the 
broad aisle for a seat, I was met by a good deacon, who 
told me, in a pious tone, " We donH alloiv niggers in 
hereP Soon after my arrival in New Bedford from the 


South, I had a strong desire to attend the lyceum, but 
was told^ "-They donH allow niggers there.^^ While pass- 
ing from New York to Boston on the steamer Massachu- 
setts, on the night of the 9th of December, 1843, when 
chilled almost through with the cold, I went into the 
cabin to get a little warm. I was soon touched upon the 
shoulder, and told, " We don't alloiu niggers in kere.^^ A 
week or two before leaving the United States, I had a 
meeting appointed at Weymouth, the house of that glo- 
rious band of true abolitionists — the Weston family and 
others. On attempting to take a seat in the omnibus to 
that place, I was told by the driver (and I never shall 
forget his fiendish hate), " I don't allow niggers in here.'' 
Thank Heaven for the respite I now enjoy ! I had been 
in Dublin but a few days when a gentleman of great 
respectability kindly offered to conduct me through all 
the public buildings of that beautiful city, and soon 
afterward I was invited by the lord mayor to dine with 
him. What a pity there was not some democratic Chris- 
tian at the door of his splendid mansion to bark out at 
my approach, " They don't allow niggers in here ! " The 
truth is, the people here knew nothing of the republican 
negro-hate prevalent in our glorious land. They measure 
and esteem men according to their moral and intellectual 
worth, and not according to the color of their skin. 
Whatever may be said of the aristocracies here, there is 
none based on the color of a man's skin. This species of 
aristocracy belongs preeminently to " the land of the 
free, and the home of the brave." I have never found it 
abroad in any but Americans. It sticks to them 
wherever they go. They find it almost as hard to get 
rid of as to get rid of their skins. 

The second day after my arrival in Liverpool, in com- 
pany with my friend Buffum, and several other friends, 
I went to Eaton Hall, the residence of the Marquis of 


Westminster, one of the most splendid buildings in Eng- 
land. On approaching the door, I found several of our 
American passengers who came out with us in the Cam- 
bria, waiting for admission, as but one party was allowed 
in the house at a time. We all had to wait till the com- 
pany within came out, and of all the faces expressive of 
chagrin, those of the Americans were preeminent. They 
looked as sour as vinegar, and as bitter as gall, when 
they found I was to be admitted on equal terms with 
themselves- When the door was opened, I walked in on 
a footing with my white fellow-citizens, and, from all I 
could see, I had as much attention paid me by the ser- 
vants who showed us through the house as any with a 
paler skin. As I w^alked through the building the statu- 
ary did not fall down, the pictures did not leap from 
their places, the doors did not refuse to open, and the 
servants did not say, " We don't allow niggers in lierer 

My time and labors while abroad were divided between 
England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Upon this ex- 
perience alone I might fill a volume. Amongst the few 
incidents which space will permit me to mention, and one 
which attracted much attention and provoked much dis- 
cussion in America, was a brief statement made by me in 
the World's Temperance Convention, held in Covent 
Garden theatre, London, August 7, 1846. The United 
States was largely represented in this convention by 
eminent divines, mostly doctors of divinity. They had 
come to England for the double purpose of attending the 
World's Evangelical Alliance, and the World's Temper- 
ance Convention. In the former these ministers were 
endeavoring to procure endorsement for the Christian 
character of slaveholders ; and, naturally enough, they 
were adverse to the exposure of slaveholding practices. 
It was not pleasant to them to see one of the slaves run- 
ning at large in England, and telling the other side of the 

306 DR. s. H. cox. 

story. The Rev. Samuel Hanson Cox, D. D., of Brook- 
lyn, N. Y., was especially disturbed at my presence and 
speech in the Temperance Convention. I will give here, 
first, the reverend gentleman's version of the occasion in 
a letter from him as it appeared in the New York Evan- 
gelist, the organ of his denomination. After a descrip- 
tion of the place (Covent Garden theatre) and the speak- 
ers, he says : 

' ' They all advocated the same cause, showed a glorious unity of 
thought and feeling, and the effect was constantly raised — the moral 
scene was superb and glorious — when Frederick Douglass, the colored 
abolition agitator and ultraist, came to the platform and so spake, 
d la mode, as to ruin the influence almost of all that preceded ! He 
lugged in anti-slavery, or abolition, no doubt prompted to it by some 
of the politic ones who can use him to do what they would not them- 
selves adventure to do in person. He is supposed to have been well 
paid for the abomination. 

* ' What a perversion, an abuse, an iniquity against the law of recip- 
rocal righteousness, to call thousands together and get them, some cer- 
tain ones, to seem conspicuous and devoted for one sole and grand 
object, and then all at once, with obliquity, open an avalanche on them 
for some imputed evil or monstrosity, for which, whatever be the 
wound or injury inflicted, they were both too fatigued and hurried 
with surprise, and too straightened for time, to be properly prepared. 
I say it is a streak of meanness. It it abominable. On this occasion 
Mr. Douglass allowed himself to denounce America and all its tem- 
perance societies together as a grinding community of the enemies of 
his people ; said evil with no alloy of good concerning the whole of us ; 
was perfectly indiscriminate in his severities; talked of the American 
delegates and to them as if he had been our schoolmaster and we his do- 
cile and devoted pupils ; and launched his revengeful missiles at our 
country without one palliative, and as if not a Christian or a true anti- 
slavery man lived in the whole of the United States. The fact is, the man 
has been petted and flattered and used and paid by certain abolitionists, 
not unknown to us, of the ne plus ultra stamp, till he forgets himself, 
and though he may gratify his own impulses and those of old Adam in 
others, yet I am sure that all this is just the way to ruin his own influ- 
ence, to defeat his own object, and to do mischief, not good, to the very 
cause he professes to love. With the single exception of one cold- 
hearted parricide, whose character I abhor, and whom I will not 
name, and who has, I fear, no feeling of true patriotism or piety with- 


in him, all the delegates from our country were together wounded and 
indignant. No wonder at it. I write freely. It^was not done in a 
corner. It was inspired, I believe, from beneath, and not from above. 
It was adapted to rekindle on both sides of the Atlantic the flames of 
national exasperation and war. And this is the game which Mr. 
Frederick Douglass and his silly patrons are playing in England and 
in Scotland, and wherever they can find ' some mischief still for idle 
hands to do.' I came here his sympathizing friend; I am such 
no more, as I know him. My own opinion is increasingly that this 
spirit must be exorcised out of England and America before any sub- 
stantial good can be effected for the cause of the slave. It is adapted 
only to make bad worse and to inflame the passions of indignant mil- 
lions to an incurable resentment. None but an ignoramus or a mad- 
man could think that this way was that of the inspired apostles of the 
Son of God. It may gratify the feelings of a self-deceived and 
malignant few, but it will do no good in any direction ; least of all to 
the poor slave. It is short-sighted, impulsive, partisan, reckless, and 
tending only to sanguinary ends. None of this with men of sense and 

' * We all wanted to reply, but it was too late. The whole theater 
seemed taken with the spirit of the Ephesian uproar; they were 
furious and boisterous in the extreme, and Mr. Kirk could hardly ob- 
tain a moment, though many were desirous in his behalf, to say a few 
words as he did, very calm and properly, that the cause of temperance 
was not at all responsible for slavery, and had no connection with it." 

Now, to show the reader what ground there was for this 
tirade from the pen of this eminent divine, and how 
easily Americans parted with their candor and self-pos- 
session when slavery was mentioned adversely, I will give 
here the head and front of my offense. Let it be borne 
in mind that this was a world's convention of the friends 
of temperance. It was not an American or a white man's 
convention, but one composed of men of all nations and 
races ; and as such the convention had the right to know 
all about the temperance cause in every part of the world, 
and especially to know what hindrances were interposed 
in any part of the world to its progress. I was perfectly 
in order in speaking precisely as I did. I was neither an 
" intruder " nor " out of order." I had been invited and 
advertised to speak by the same committee that invited 

308 author's address. 

Doctors Bcecher, Cox, Patton, Kirk, Marsh, and others, 
and my speech was perfectly within the limits of good 
order, as the following report will show : 

" Mr. Glmirman — Ladies and Gentlemen : 

"I am not a delegate to this convention. Those who would have 
been most likely to elect me as a delegate could not, because they are 
to-night held in abject slavery in the United States. Sir, I regret that 
I cannot fully unite w^ith the American delegates in their patriotic 
eulogies of America and American temperance societies. I cannot do 
so for this good reason : there are at this moment three millions of the 
American population by slavery and prejudice placed entirely beyond 
the pale of American temperance societies. The three million slaves 
are completely excluded by slavery, and four hundred thousand free* 
colored people are almost as completely excluded by an inveterate 
prejudice against them on account of their color. [Cries of * Shame! 

" I do not say these things to wound the feelings of the American 
delegates. I simply mention them in their presence and before this 
audience that, seeing how you regard this hatred and neglect of the 
colored people, they may be inclined on their return home to enlarge 
the field of their temperance operations and embrace within the scope 
of their influence my long-neglected race. [Great cheering, and some 
confusion on the platform.] Sir, to give you some idea of the difli- 
culties and obstacles in the way of the temperance reformation of the 
colored population in the United States, allow me to state a few facts. 

"About the year 1840, a few intelligent, sober, and benevolent col- 
ored gentlemen in Philadelphia, being acquainted with the appalling 
ravages of intemperance among a numerous class of colored people in 
that city, and finding themselves neglected and excluded from white 
societies, organized societies among themselves, appointed commit- 
tees, sent out agents, built temperance halls, and were earnestly and 
successfully rescuing many from the fangs of intemperance. 

** The cause went on nobly till August 1, 1842, the day when Eng- 
land gave liberty to eight hundred thousand souls in the West Indies. 
The colored temperance societies selected this day to march in 
procession through the city, in the hope that such a demonstration 
would have the effect of bringing others into their ranks. They 
formed their procession, unfurled their teetotal banners, and proceed- 
ed to the accomplishment of their purpose. It was a delightful sight. 
But, sir, they had not proceeded down two streets before they were 
brutally assailed by a ruthless mob ; their banner was torn down and 
trampled in the dust, their ranks broken up, their persons beaten and 
pelted with stones and brickbats. One of their churches was burned 


to the ground, and their best temperance hall utterly demolished. 
['Shame! shame! shame!' from the audience, great confusion, and 
cries of ' Sit down ' from the American delegates on the platform.] " 

In the midst of this commotion the chairman tapped 
me on the shoulder, and, whispering, informed me that 
the fifteen minutes allotted to each speaker had expired ; 
whereupon the vast audience simultaneously shouted: 
'' Don't interrupt ! " " Don't dictate ! " " Go on ! " " Go 
on! " " Douglass ! " " Douglass ! " This continued sev- 
eral minutes, when I proceeded as follows : " Kind friends, 
I beg to assure you that the chairman has not in the 
slightest degree sought to alter any sentiment which I am 
anxious to express on this occasion. He was simply re- 
minding me that the time allotted for me to speak had 
expired. I do not wish to occupy one moment more than 
is allotted to other speakers. Thanking you for your kind 
indulgence, I will take my seat." Proceeding to do so 
again, there were loud cries of " Go on ! " " Go on ! " 
with which I complied for a few moments, but without 
saying anything more that particularly related to the col- 
ored people in America. I did not allow the letter of Dr. 
Cox to go unanswered through the American journals, but 
promptly exposed its unfairness. That letter is too long 
for insertion here. A part of it was published in the 
Evangelist and in many other papers, both in this country 
and in England. Our eminent divine made no rejoinder, 
and his silence was regarded at the time as an admission 
of defeat. 

Another interesting circumstance connected with my 
visit to England was the position of the Free Church of 
Scotland, with the great Doctors Chalmers, Cunningham, 
and Candish at its head. That Church had settled for 
itself the question which was frequently asked by the op- 
ponents of abolition at home, " What have we to do with 
slavery? ^^ by accepting contributions from slaveholders; 


{. e., receiving the price of blood into its treasury 
with wliicli to build churches and pay ministers for 
preaching the gospel ; and worse than this, when 
honest John Murray of Bowlein Bay, with William Smeal, 
Andrew Paton, Frederick Card, and other sterling anti- 
slavery men in Glasgow, denounced the transaction as 
disgraceful, and shocking to the religious sentiment of 
Scotland, this church, through its leading divines, histead 
of repenting and seeking to amend the mistake into which 
it had fallen, caused that mistake to become a flagrant 
sin by undertaking to defend, in the name of God and 
the Bible, the principle not only of taking the money of 
slave-dealers to build churches and thus extend the gospel, 
but of holding fellowship with the traffickers in human 
flesh. This, the reader will see, brought up the whole 
question of slavery, and opened the way to its full discus- 
sion. I have never seen a people more deeply moved 
than were the people of Scotland on this very question. 
Public meeting succeeded public meeting, speech after 
speech, pamphlet after pamphlet, editorial after editorial, 
sermon after sermon ; lashed the conscientious Scotch 
people into a perfect furore. "Send back the money I" 
was indignantly shouted from Greenock to Edinburgh, 
and from Edinburgh to Aberdeen. George Thompson of 
London, Henry C. Wright, J. N. Buffum and myself from 
America, were of course on the anti-slavery side, and 
Chalmers, Cunningham, and Candlish on the other. 
Dr. Cunningham was the most powerful debater on the 
slavery side of the question, Mr. Thompson the ablest on 
the anti-slavery side. A scene occurred between these 
two men, a parallel to which I think I have never wit- 
nessed before or since. It was caused by a single excla- 
mation on the part of Mr. Thompson, and was on this 

The general assembly of the Free Church was in prog- 


ress at Cannon Mills, Edinburgh. The building would 
hold twenty-five hundred persons, and on this occasion 
was densely packed, notice having been given tliat Doc- 
tors Cunningham and Candlish would speak that day in 
defense of the relations of the Free Church of Scotland 
to slavery in America. Messrs. Thompson, Buffum, my- 
self and a few other anti-slavery friends attended, but 
sat at such distance and in such position as not to be 
observed from the platform. The excitement was intense, 
having been greatly increased by a series of meetings 
held by myself and friends, in the most splendid hall in 
that most beautiful city, just previous to this meeting of 
the general assembly. ''Send back the money!" in large 
capitals stared from every street corner ; " Send back the 
MONEY ! " adorned the broad flags of the pavement ; " Send 
BACK the money ! " was the chorus of the popular street- 
song ; " Send back the money ! " was the heading of leading 
editorials in the daily newspapers. This day, at Cannon 
Mills, the great doctors of the church were to give an 
answer to this loud and stern demand. Men of all par- 
ties and sects were most eager to hear. Something great 
was expected. The occasion was great, the men were 
great, and great speeches were expected from them. 

In addition to the outward pressure there was wavering 
within. The conscience of the church itself was not at 
ease. A dissatisfaction with the position of the church 
touching slavery was sensibly manifest among the mem- 
bers, and something must be done to counteract this 
untoward influence. The great Dr. Chalmers was in 
feeble health at the time, so his most potent eloquence 
could not now be summoned to Cannon Mills, as formerly. 
He whose voice had been so powerful as to rend asunder 
and dash down the granite walls of the Established 
Church of Scotland, and to lead a host in solemn pro- 
cession from it as from a doomed city, was now old and 


enfeebled. Besides, he had said his word on this very- 
question, and it had not silenced the clamor without nor 
stilled the anxious heavings within. The occasion was 
momentous, and felt to be so. The church was in a 
perilous condition. A change of some sort must take 
place, or she must go to pieces. To stand where she did 
was impossible. The whole weight of the matter fell on 
Cunningham and Candlish. No shoulders in the church 
were broader than theirs ; and I must say, badly as I 
detested the principles laid down and defended by them, 
I was compelled to acknowledge the vast mental endow- 
ments of the men. 

Cunningham rose, and his rising was the signal for 
tumultuous applause. It may be said that this was 
scarcely in keeping with the solemnity of the occasion, 
but to me it served to increase its grandeur and gravity. 
The applause, though tumultuous, was not joyous. It 
seemed to me, as it thundered up from the vast audience, 
like the fall of an immense shaft, flung from shoulders 
already galled by its crushing weight. It was like saying 
"Doctor, we have borne this burden long enough, and 
willingly fling it upon you. Since it was you who brought 
it upon us, take it now and do what you will with it, for 
we are too weary to bear it." 

The Doctor proceeded with his speech — abounding in 
logic, learning, and eloquence, and apparently bearing 
down all opposition ; but at the moment — the fatal mo- 
ment — when he was just bringing all his arguments to a 
point, and that point being that " neither Jesus Christ 
nor his holy apostles regarded slaveholding as a sin," 
George Thompson, in a clear, sonorous, but rebuking 
voice, broke the deep stillness of the audience, exclaim- 
ing, "Hear! Hear! Hear!" The effect of this simple 
and common exclamation is almost incredible. It was 
as if a granite wall had been suddenly flung up against 


the advancing current of a mighty river. For a moment 
speaker and audience were brought to a dead silence. 
Both the Doctor and his hearers seemed appalled by the 
audacity, as well as the fitness of the rebuke. At length 
a shout went up to the cry of ^'Put him out!^^ Happily 
no one attempted to execute this cowardly order, and the 
discourse went on ; but not as before. The exclamation 
of Thompson must have re-echoed a thousand times in 
his memory, for the Doctor, during the remainder of his 
speech, was utterly unable to recover from the blow. 
The deed was done, however ; the pillars of the church — 
the proud Free Church of Scotland — were committed, and 
the humility of repentance was absent. The Free Church 
held on to the blood-stained money, and continued to 
justify itself in its position. 

One good result followed the conduct of the Free 
Church ; it furnished an occasion for making the people 
thoroughly acquainted with the character of slavery and 
for arraying against it the moral and religious sentiment 
of that country ; therefore, while we did not procure the 
sending back of the money, we were amply justified by 
the good which really did result from our labors. 

I must add one word in regard to the Evangelical 
Alliance. This was an attempt to form a union of all 
Evangelical Christians throughout the world, and which 
held its first session in London, in the year 1846, at the 
time of the World's Temperance Convention there. Some 
sixty or seventy ministers from America attended this 
convention, the object of some of them being to weave a 
world-wide garment with which to clothe evangelical 
slaveholders ; and in this they partially succeeded. But 
the question of slavery was too large a question to be 
finally disposed of by the Evangelical Alliance, and from 
its judgment we appealed to the judgment of the people 
of Great Britain, with the happiest effect — this effort of 


our countrymen to shield the character of slaveholders 
serving to open a way to the British ear for anti-slavery 

I may mention here an incident somewhat amusing 
and instructive, as it serves to illustrate how easily 
Americans could set aside their notoriously inveterate 
prejudice against color, when it stood in the way of their 
wishes, or when in an atmosphere which made that preju- 
dice unpopular and unchristian. 

At the entrance to the House of Commons I had one 
day been conversing for a few moments with Lord Mor- 
peth, and just as I was parting from him I felt an em- 
phatic push against my arm, and, looking around, I saw 
at my elbow Rev. Dr. Kirk of Boston. "Introduce me to 
Lord Morpeth," he said. " Certainly," said I, and intro- 
duced him; not without remembering, however, that the 
amiable Doctor would scarcely have asked such a favor 
of a colored man at home. 

The object of my labors in Great Britain was the con- 
centration of the moral and religious sentiment of its 
people against American slavery. To this end I visited 
and lectured in nearly all the large towns and cities 
in the United Kingdom, and enjoyed many favorable op- 
portunities for observation and information. I should 
like to write a book on those countries, if for nothing 
else, to make grateful mention of the many dear friends 
whose benevolent actions toward me are ineffaceably 
stamped upon my memory and warmly treasured in my 
heart. To these friends I owe my freedom in the United 

Mrs. Ellen Eichardson, an excellent member of the so- 
ciety of Friends, assisted by her sister-in-law, Mrs. Henry 
Richardson, a lady devoted to every good word and work, 
the friend of the Indian and the African, conceived the 
plan of raising a fund to effect my ransom from slavery. 


They corresponded with Hon. Walter Forward of Penn- 
sylvania, and through him ascertained that Captain Auld 
would take one hundred and fifty pounds sterling for me ; 
and this sum they promptly raised and paid for my libera- 
tion, placing the papers of my manumission into my hands 
before they would tolerate the idea of my return to my 
native land. To this commercial transaction, to this 
blood-money, I owe my immunity from the operation of 
the fugitive slave law of 1793, and also from that of 1850. 
The whole affair speaks for itself, and needs no comment, 
now that slavery has ceased to exist in this country, and 
is not likely ever again to be revived. 

Some of my uncompromising anti-slavery friends in 
this country failed to see the wisdom of this commercial 
transaction, and were not pleased that I consented to 
it, even by my silence. They thought it a violation 
of anti-slavery principles, conceding the right of property 
in man, and a wasteful expenditure of money. For 
myself, viewing it simply in the light of a ransom, or as 
money extorted by a robber, and my liberty of more value 
than one hundred and fifty pounds sterling, I could not 
see either a violation of the laws of morality or of econ- 
omy. It is true I was not in the possession of my claim- 
ants, and could have remained in England, for my friends 
would have generously assisted me in establishing myself 
there. To this I could not consent. I felt it my duty to 
labor and suffer with my oppressed people in my native 
land. Considering all the circumstances, the fugitive 
bill included, I think now as then, that the very best 
thing was done in letting Master Hugh have the money, 
and thus leave me free to return to my appropriate field 
of labor. Had I been a private person, with no relations 
or duties other than those of a personal and family 
nature, I should not have consented to the payment of so 
large a sum for the privilege of living securely under 


our glorious republican(?) form of government. I could 
have lived elsewhere, or perhaps might have been unob- 
served even here, but I had become somewhat notorious, 
and withal quite as unpopular in some directions as no- 
torious, and I was therefore much exposed to arrest and 

*The following is a copy of these curious papers, both of my trans- 
fer from Thomas to Hugh Auld and from Hugh to myself : 

" Know all men by these presents : That I, Thomas Auld, of Talbot 
county and State of Maryland, for and in consideration of the sum of 
one hundred dollars, current money, to me paid by Hugh Auld of the 
city of Baltimore, in the said State, at and before the seaUng and de- 
livery of these presents, the receipt whereof I, the said Thomas Auld, 
do hereby acknowledge, have granted, bargained, and sold, and 
by these presents do grant, bargain, and sell unto the said Hugh 
Auld, his executors, administrators, and assigns, one negro man, by 
the name of Frederick Bailey, or Douglass, as he calls himself — 
he is now about twenty-eight years of age — to have and to hold the 
said negro man for life. And I, the said Thomas Auld, for myself, 
my heirs, executors, and administrators, all and singular, the said 
Frederick Bailey, alias Douglass, unto the said Hugh Auld, his 
executors and administrators, and against all and every other person 
or persons whatsoever, shall and will warrant and forever defend by 
these presents. In witness whereof, I set my hand and seal this thir- 
teenth day of November, eighteen hundi*ed and forty-six (1846). 

" Thomas Auld. 

** Signed, sealed, and delivered in presence of Wrightson Jones, 
John C. Lear." 

The authenticity of this bill of sale is attested by N. Harrington, a 
justice of the peace of the State of Maryland and for the county of 
Talbot, dated same day as above. 

" To all whom it may concern: Be it known that I, Hugh Auld of 
the city of Baltimore, in Baltimore county in the State of Maryland, 
for divers good causes and considerations me thereunto moving, have 
released from slavery, liberated, manumitted, and set free, and by 
these presents do hereby release from slavery, liberate, manumit, and 
set free, my negro man named Frederick Bailey, otherwise called 
Douglass, being of the age of twenty-eight years or thereabouts, and 
able to work and gain a sufficient livelihood and maintenance; and 
him, the said negro man named Frederick Douglass, I do declare 


Having remained abroad nearly two years, and being 
about to return to America, not as I left it, a slave, but a 
freeman, prominent friends of tlie cause of emancipation 
intimated their intention to make me a testimonial, both 
on grounds of personal regard to me and also to the 
cause to which they were so ardently devoted. How such 
a project would have succeeded I do not know, but many 
reasons led me to prefer that my friends should simply 
give me the means of obtaining a printing-press and ma- 
terials to enable me to start a paper advocating the 
interests of my enslaved and oppressed people. I told 
them that perhaps the greatest hindrance to the adoption 
of abolition principles by the people of the United States 
was the low estimate everywhere in that country placed 
upon the negro as a man ; that because of his assumed 
natural inferiority people reconciled themselves to his en- 
slavement and oppression as being inevitable, if not 
desirable. The grand thing to be done, therefore, was to 
change this estimation by disproving his inferiority and 
demonstrating his capacity for a more exalted civilization 
than slavery and prejudice had assigned him. In my 
judgment, a tolerably well-conducted press in the hands 
of persons of the despised race would, by calling out and 
making them acquainted with their own latent powers, by 
enkindling their hope of a future and developing their 
moral force, prove a most powerful means of removing 
prejudice and awakening an interest in them. At that 
time there was not a single newspaper regularly published 
by the colored people in the country, though many at- 

to be henceforth free, manumitted, and discharged from all manner of 
servitude to me, my executors and administrators forever. 

" In witness whereof, I, the said Hugh Auld, have hereunto set my 
hand and seal the fifth of December, in the year one thousand eight 
hundred and forty-six. Hugh Auld. 

" Sealed and delivered in presence of T. Hanson Belt, James N. S. 
T. Wright." 


tempts had been made to establish such, and had from 
one cause or another failed. These views I laid before 
my friends. The result was that nearly two thousand 
five hundred dollars were speedily raised toward my 
establishing such a paper as I had indicated. For this 
prompt and generous assistance, rendered upon my bare 
suggestion, without any personal effort on my part, 
I shall never cease to feel deeply grateful, and the thought 
of fulfilling the expectations of the dear friends who had 
given me this evidence of their confidence was an abiding 
inspiration for persevering exertion. 

Proposing to leave England and turning my face toward 
America in the spring of 1847, I was painfully reminded 
of the kind of life which awaited me on my arrival. For 
the first time in the many months spent abroad I was met 
with proscription on account of my color. While in London 
I had purchased a ticket and secured a berth for returning 
home in the Cambria — the steamer in which I had come 
from thence — and paid therefor the round sum of forty 
pounds nineteen shillings sterling. This was first-cabin 
fare ; but on going on board I found that the Liver- 
pool agent had ordered my berth to be given to another, 
and forbidden my entering the saloon. It was rather 
hard, after having enjoyed for so long a time equal social 
privileges, after dining with persons of great literary, 
social, political, and religious eminence, and never, during 
the whole time, having met with a single word, look, 
or gesture which gave me the slightest reason to think my 
color was an offense to any body, now to be cooped 
up in the stern of the Cambria and denied the right 
to enter the saloon, lest my presence should disturb some 
democratic fellow-passenger. The reader can easily 
imagine what must have been my feelings under such an 

This contemptible conduct met with stern rebuke from 


the British press. The London Times and other leading 
journals throughout the United Kingdom held up the out- 
rage to unmitigated condemnation. So good an opportu- 
nity for calling out British sentiment on the subject had 
not before occurred, and it was fully embraced. The 
result was that Mr. Cunard came out in a letter express- 
ive of his regret, and promising that the like indignity, 
should never occur again on his steamers, which promise 
I believe has been faithfully kept. 


New Experiences— Painful Disagreement of Opinion with old 
Friends— Final Decision to publish my Paper in Rochester — Its 
Fortunes and its Friends— Change in my own Views Regarding the 
Constitution of the United States— Fidelity to Conviction— Loss of 
Old Friends — Support of New Ones — Loss of House, etc. , by Fire — 
Triumphs and Trials — Underground Railroad — Incidents. 

PREPARED as I was to meet with many trials and 
perplexities on reaching home, one of which I little 
dreamed was awaiting me. My plans for future useful- 
ness, as indicated in the last chapter, were all settled, 
and in imagination I already saw myself wielding my pen 
as well as my voice in the great work of renovating the 
public mind, and building up a public sentiment, which 
should send slavery to the grave, and restore to " liberty 
and the pursuit of happiness " the people with whom I 
had suffered. 

My friends in Boston had been informed of what I was 
intending, and I expected to find them favorably disposed 
toward my cherished enterprise. In this I was mis- 
taken. They had many reasons against it. First, no 
such paper was needed ; secondly, it would interfere with 
my usefulness as a lecturer ; thirdly, I was better fitted 
to speak than to write ; fourthly, the paper could not 
succeed. This opposition from a quarter so highly 
esteemed, and to which I had been accustomed to look 
for advice and direction, caused me not only to hesitate, 
but inclined me to abandon the undertaking. All pre- 
vious attempts to establish such a journal having failed, 



I feared lest I should but add another to the list, and 
thus contribute another proof of the mental deficiencies 
of my race. Very much that was said to me in respect 
to my imperfect literary attainments I felt to be most 
painfully true. The unsuccessful projectors of all former 
attempts had been my superiors in point of education, 
and if they had failed how could I hope for success ? 
Yet I did hope for success, and persisted in the under- 
taking, encouraged by my English friends to go forward. 
I can easily pardon those who saw in my persistence 
an unwarrantable ambition and presumption. I was but 
nine years from slavery. In many phases of mental ex- 
perience I was but nine years old. That one under such 
circumstances should aspire to establish a printing-press, 
surrounded by an educated people, might well be considered 
unpractical, if not ambitious. My American friends 
looked at me with astonishment. " A wood-sawyer " 
offering himself to the public as an editor ! A slave, 
brought up in the depths of ignorance, assuming to 
instruct the highly civilized people of the north in the 
principles of liberty, justice, and humanity ! The thing 
looked absurd. Nevertheless, I persevered. I felt that 
the want of education, great as it was, could be overcome 
by study, and that wisdom would come by experience ; 
and further (which was perhaps the most controlling 
consideration) I thought that an intelligent public, know- 
ing my early history, would easily pardon the many 
deficiencies which I well knew that my paper must 
exhibit. The most distressing part of it all was the 
offense which I saw I must give my friends of the old 
anti-slavery organization, by what seemed to them a 
reckless disregard of their opinion and advice. I am not 
sure that I was not under the influence of something like 
a slavish adoration of these good people, and I labored 


hard to convince tlicm that my way of thinking about 
the matter was the riglit one, but without success. 

From motives of peace, instead of issuing my paper in 
Boston, among New England friends, I went to Roches- 
ter, N. Y., among strangers, wliere the local circulation 
of my paper — '' The North Star " — would not interfere 
with that of the Liberator or the Anti-Slavery Standard^ 
for I was then a faithful disciple of Wm. Lloyd Garrison, 
and fully committed to his doctrine touching the pro- 
slavery character of the Constitution of the United States, 
also the non-voting principle of which he was the known 
and distinguished advocate. With him, I held it to be 
the first duty of the non-slaveholding States to dissolve 
the union with the slaveholding States, and hence my 
cry, like his, was " No union with slaveholders." With 
these views I came into western New York, and during 
the first four years of my labors here I advocated them 
with pen and tongue to the best of my ability. After a 
time, a careful reconsideration of tlie subject convinced 
me that there was no necessity for dissolving the " union 
between the northern and southern States " ; that to seek 
this dissolution was no part of my duty as an abolitionist ; 
that to abstain from voting was to refuse to exercise a 
legitimate and powerful means for abolishing slavery ; 
and that the Constitution of the United States not only 
contained no guarantees in favor of slavery, but, on the 
contrary, was in its letter and spirit an anti-slavery 
instrument, demanding the abolition of slavery as a con- 
dition of its own existence as the supreme law of the 

This radical change in my opinions produced a corres- 
ponding change in my action. To those with whom I 
had been in agreement and in sympathy, I came to be in 
opposition. What they held to be great and important 
truth I now looked upon as a dangerous error. A very 

THE author's argument. 823 

natural, but to me a very painful thing, now happened. 
Those who could not see any honest reasons for changing 
their views, as I had done, could not easily see any such 
reasons for my change, and the common punishment of 
apostates was mine. 

My first opinions were naturally derived and honestly 
entertained. Brought directly, when I escaped from 
slavery, into contact with abolitionists who regarded the 
Constitution as a slaveholding instrument, and finding 
their views supported by the united and entire history of 
every department of the government, it is not strange that 
I assumed the Constitution to be just what these friends 
made it seem to be. I was bound, not only by their 
superior knowledge, to take their opinions in respect 
to this subject, as the true ones, but also because I 
had no means of showing their unsoundness. But for 
the responsibility of conducting a public journal, and the 
necessity imposed upon me of meeting opposite views 
from abolitionists outside of New England, I should in 
all probability have remained firm in my disunion views. 
My new circumstances compelled me to re-think the whole 
subject, and study with some care not only the just and 
proper rules of legal interpretation, but the origin, design, 
nature, rights, powers, and duties of civil governments, 
and also the relations which human beings sustain to it. 
By such a course of thought and reading I was conducted 
to the conclusion that the Constitution of the United 
States — inaugurated to '' form a more perfect union, 
establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for 
the common defense, promote the general welfare, and 
secure the blessings of liberty " — could not well have 
been designed at the same time to maintain and perpetu- 
ate a system of rapine and murder like slavery, especially 
as not one word can be found in the Constitution to 
authorize such a belief. Then, again, if the declared pur- 


poses of an instrument are to govern the meaning of all 
its parts and details, as they clearly should, the Constitu- 
tion of our country is our warrant for the abolition of 
slavery in every State of the Union. It would require 
much time and space to set forth the arguments which 
demonstrated to my mind the unconstitutionality of 
slavery; but being convinced of the fact my duty was 
plain upon this point in the further conduct of my paper. 
The North Star was a large sheet, published weekly, at a 
cost of $80 per week, and an average circulation of 3,000 
subscribers. There were many times w^hen, in my expe- 
rience as editor and publisher, I was very hard pressed 
for money, but by one means or another I succeeded so 
well as to keep my pecuniary engagements, and to keep 
my anti-slavery banner steadily flying during all the con- 
flict from the autumn of 1847 till the union of the States 
was assured and emancipation was a fact accomplished. 
I had friends abroad as well as at home who helped me 
liberally. I can never be too grateful to E>ev. Russell 
Laut Carpenter and to Mrs. Carpenter for the moral and 
material aid they tendered me through all the vicissi- 
tudes of my paper enterprise. But to no one person 
was I more indebted for substantial assistance than to 
Mrs. Julia Griffiths Crofts. She came to my relief when 
my paper had nearly absorbed all my means, and I was 
heavily in debt, and when I had mortgaged my house to 
raise money to meet current expenses ; and by her ener- 
getic and effective management in a single year enabled 
me to extend the circulation of my paper from 2,000 to 
4,000 copies, pay off the debts and lift the mortgage from 
my house. Her industry was equal to her devotion. She 
seemed to rise with CA'ery emergency, and her resources 
appeared inexhaustible. I shall never cease to remember 
with sincere gratitude the assistance rendered me by this 
noble lady, and I mention her here in the desire in some 


humble measure to " give honor to whom honor is due." 
During tlie first three or four years my paper was pub- 
lished under the name of the North Star. It was subse- 
quently changed to Frederick Douglass's Paper^ in order 
to distinguish it from the many papers with "Stars" in 
their titles. There were " North Stars," " Morning Stars " 
" Evening Stars," and I know not how many other stars 
in the newspaper firmament, and some confusion arose 
naturally enough in distinguishing between them; for 
this reason, and also because some of these stars were 
older than my star, I felt that mine, hot theirs, ought to 
be the one to " go out." 

Among my friends in this country, who helped me in 
my earlier efforts to maintain my paper, I may proudly 
count such men as the late Hon. Gerrit Smith, and Chief- 
Justice Chase, Hon. Horace Mann, Hon. Joshua E,. Gid- 
dings, Hon. Charles Sumner, Hon. John G. Palfry, Hon. 
Wm. H. Seward, Rev. Samuel J. May, and many others, 
who though of lesser note were equally devoted to my 
cause. Among these latter ones were Isaac and Amy 
Post, William and Mary Hallowell, Asa and Hulda An- 
thony, and indeed all the committee of the Western New 
York Anti-Slavery Society. They held festivals and fairs 
to raise money, and assisted me in every other possible 
way to keep my paper in circulation, while I was a non- 
voting abolitionist, but withdrew from me when I became 
a voting abolitionist. For a time the withdrawal of their 
cooperation embarrassed me very much, but soon another 
class of friends was raised up for me, chief amongst 
whom were the Porter family of Rochester. The late 
Samuel D. Porter and his wife Susan F. Porter, and his 
sisters, Maria and Elmira Porter, deserve grateful men- 
tion as among my steadfast friends, who did much in the 
way of supplying pecuniary aid. 

Of course there were moral forces operating against me 


in Rochester, as well as material ones. There were those 
who regarded the publication of a "Negro paper" in that 
beautiful cit}^ as a blemish and a misfortune. The New 
York Herald^ true to the spii'it of the times, counselled 
the people of the place to throw my printing-press into 
Lake Ontario and to banish me to Canada, and, while 
they were not quite prepared for this violence, it was 
plain that many of them did not well relish my presence 
amongst them. This feeling, however, wore away grad- 
ually, as the people knew more of me and my works. I 
lectured every Sunday evening during an entire winter in 
the beautiful Corinthian Hall, then owned by Wm. R. 
Reynolds, Esq., who, though he was not an abolitionist, 
w^as a lover of fair play, and was willing to allow me to 
be heard. If in these lectures I did not make abolition- 
ists, I did succeed in making tolerant the moral atmos- 
phere in Rochester ; so much so, indeed, that I came to 
feel as much at home there as I had ever done in the 
most friendly parts of New England. I had been at work 
there with my paper but a few years before colored trav- 
elers told me that they felt the influence of my labors 
when they came within fifty miles. I did not rely alone 
upon what I could do by the paper, but would write all 
day, then take a train to Victor, Farmington, Canan- 
daigua, Geneva, Waterloo, Batavia, or Buffalo, or else- 
where, and speak in the evening, returning home after- 
wards or early in the morning, to be again at my desk 
writing or mailing papers. There were times when I 
almost thought my Boston friends were right in dis- 
suading me from my newspaper project. But looking 
back to those niglits and days of toil and thought, com- 
pelled often to do work for wliich I had no educational 
preparation, I have come to think that, under the cir- 
cumstances, it Avas the best school possible for me. It 
obliged me to think and read, it taught me to express my 


thoughts clearly, and was perhaps better than any other 
course I could have adopted. Besides, it made it neces- 
sary for me to lean upon myself, and not upon the heads 
of our Anti-Slavery church, to be a principal, and not 
an agent. I had an audience to speak to every week, and 
must say something worth their hearing, or cease to 
speak altogether. There is nothing like the lash and 
sting of necessity to make a man work, and my paper 
furnished this motive power. More than one gentleman 
from the South, when stopping at Niagara, came to see 
me, that they might know for themselves if I could indeed 
write, having, as they said, believed it impossible that an 
uneducated fugitive slave could write the articles attrib- 
uted to me. I found it hard to get credit in some quar- 
ters either for what I wrote or what I said. While there 
was nothing very profound or learned in either, the low 
estimate of Negro possibilities induced the belief that 
both my editorials and my speeches were written by 
white persons. I doubt if this scepticism does not still 
linger in the minds of some of my democratic fellow- 

The 2d of June, 1872, brought me a very grievous 
loss. My house in Rochester was burnt to the ground, 
and among other things of value, twelve volumes of 
my paper, covering the period from 1848 to 1860, were 
devoured by the flames. I have never been able to 
replace them, and the loss is immeasurable. Only a few 
weeks before, I had been invited to send these bound 
volumes to the library of Harvard University, where 
they would have been preserved in a fire-proof building, 
and the result of my procrastination attests the wis- 
dom of more than one proverb. Outside the years em- 
braced in the late tremendous war, there had been no 
period more pregnant with great events, or better suited 
to call out the best mental and moral energies of men, 


than that covered by these lost volumes. If I have at 
any time said or written that which is worth remember- 
ing or repeating, I must have said such things between 
the years 1848 and 1860, and my paper was a chronicle 
of most of what I said during that time. Within that 
space we had the great Free-Soil Convention at Buffalo, 
the Nomination of Martin Van Buren, the Fugitive-Slave 
Law, the 7th of March Speech by Daniel Webster, the 
Dred Scott decision, the repeal of the Missouri Compro- 
mise, the Kansas Nebraska bill, the Border war in Kan- 
sas, the John Brown raid upon Harper's Ferry, and a part 
of the War against the Rebellion, with much else, well 
calculated to fire the souls of men having one spark of 
liberty and patriotism within them. I have only frag- 
ments now of all the work accomplished during these 
twelve years, and must cover this chasm as best I can 
from memory, and the incidental items which 1 am able 
to glean from various sources. Two volumes of the 
North Star have been kindly supplied me, by my friend, 
Marshall Pierce, of Saco, Me. He had these carefully 
preserved and bound in one cover and sent to me in 
Washington. He was one of the most systematically 
careful men of all my anti-slavery friends, for I doubt if 
another entire volume of the paper exists. 

One important branch of my anti-slavery work in 
Rochester, in addition to that of speaking and writing 
against slavery, must not be forgotten or omitted. My 
position gave me the chance of hitting that old enemy 
some telling blows, in another direction than these. I 
was on the southern border of Lake Ontario, and the 
Queen's dominions were right over the way — and my 
prominence as an abolitionist, and as the editor of an 
anti- slavery paper, naturally made me the station-master 
and conductor of the underground railroad passing 
through this goodly city. Secrecy and concealment 


were necessary conditions to the successful operation of 
this railroad, and hence its prefix " underground." Mj 
agency was all tlie more exciting and interesting, because 
not altogether free from danger. I could take no step in 
it without exposing myself to fine and imprisonment, for 
these were the penalties imposed by the fugitive-slave 
law for feeding, harboring, or otherwise assisting a slave 
to escape from his master ; but, in face of this fact, I can 
say I never did more congenial, attractive, fascinating, 
and satisfactory work. True, as a means of destroying 
slavery, it was like an attempt to bail out the ocean with 
a teaspoon, but the thought that there was one less slave, 
and one more freeman — having myself been a slave, and 
a fugitive slave — ^brought to my heart unspeakable joy. 
On one occasion I had eleven fugitives at the same time 
under my roof, and it was necessary for them to remain 
with me until I could collect sufficient money to get them 
on to Canada. It was the largest number I ever had at 
any one time, and I had some difficulty in providing so 
many with food and shelter, but, as may well be imagined, 
they were not very, fastidious in either direction, and 
were well content with very plain food, and a strip of 
carpet on the floor for a bed, or a place on the straw in 
the barn-loft. 

The underground railroad had many branches ; but 
that one with which I was connected had its main sta- 
tions in Baltimore, Wilmington, Philadelphia, New York, 
Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, and St. Catharines (Can- 
ada). It is not necessary to tell who were the principal 
agents in Baltimore ; Thomas Garrett was the agent in 
Wilmington ; Melloe McKim, William Still, Robert Pur- 
vis, Edward M. Davis, and others did the work in Phila- 
delphia ; David Ruggles, Isaac T. Hopper, Napolian, and 
others, in New York city ; the Misses Mott and Stephen 
Myers were forwarders from Albany ; Revs. Samuel J. 


May and J. W. Loguen were the agents in Syracuse ; 
and J. P. Morris and myself received and dispatclied 
passengers from Rochester to Canada, where they were 
received by Rev. Hiram Wilson. When a party arrived 
in Rochester it was the business of Mr. Morris and my- 
self to raise funds with which to pay their passage to St. 
Catharines, and it is due to truth to state that we seldom 
called in vain upon whig or democrat for help. Men 
were better than their theology, and truer to humanity 
than to their politics, or their offices. 

On one occasion while a slave master was in the office 
of a United States commissioner, procuring the papers 
necessary for the arrest and rendition of three young men 
who had escaped from Maryland (one of whom was 
under my roof at the time, another at Farmington, and 
the other at work on the farm of Asa Anthony, just a 
little outside the city limits), the law partner of the com- 
missioner, then a distinguished democrat, sought me out, 
and told me what was going on in his office, and urged 
me by all means to get these young men out of the way 
of their pursuers and claimants. Of course no time was 
to be lost. A swift horseman was dispatched to Farming- 
ton, eighteen miles distant, another to Asa Anthony's 
farm, about three miles, and another to my house on the 
south side of the city, and before the papers could be 
served all three of the young men were on the free waves 
of Lake Ontario, bound to Canada. In writing to their 
old master, they had dated their letter at Rochester, 
though they had taken the precaution to send it to 
Canada to be mailed, but this blunder in the date had 
betrayed their whereabouts, so that the hunters were at 
once on their tracks. 

So numerous were the fugitives passing through Roches- 
ter that I was obliged at last to appeal to my British 
friends for the means of sending them on their way, and 


when Mr. and Mrs. Carpenter and Mrs. Croffts took the 
matter in hand, I had never any further trouble in that 
respect. When slavery was abolished I wrote to Mrs. 
Carpenter, congratulating her that she was relieved of 
the work of raising funds for such purposes, and the 
characteristic reply of that lady was that she had been 
very glad to do what she had done, and had no wish for 

My pathway was not entirely free from thorns in Roches- 
ter, and the wounds and pains inflicted by them were 
perhaps much less easily borne, because of my exemption 
from such annoyances while in England. Men can in 
time become accustomed to almost anything, even to 
being insulted and ostracised, but such treatment comes 
hard at first, and when to some extent unlooked for. 
The vulgar prejudice against color, so common to Ameri- 
cans, met me in several disagreeable forms. A seminary 
for young ladies and misses, under the auspices of Miss 
Tracy, was near my house on Alexander street, and 
desirous of having my daughter educated like the daugh- 
ters of other men, I applied to Miss Tracy for her admis- 
sion to her school. All seemed fair, and the child was 
duly sent to " Tracy Seminary," and I went about my 
business happy in the thought that she was in the way of 
a refined and Christian education. Several weeks elapsed 
before I knew how completely I was mistaken. The 
little girl came home to me one day and told me she was 
lonely in that school ; that she was in fact kept in soli- 
tary confinement ; that she was not allowed in the room 
with the other girls, nor to go into the yard when they 
went out ; that she was kept in a room by herself and not 
permitted to be seen or heard by the others. No man 
with the feeling of a parent could be less than moved by 
such a revelation, and I confess that I was shocked, 
grieved, and indignant. I went at once to Miss Tracy 


to ascertain if wliat I had heard was true, and was coolly 
told it was, and the miserable plea was offered that it 
would have injured her school if she had done otherwise. 
I told her she should have told me so at the beginning, 
but I did not believe that any girl in the school would be 
opposed to the presence of my daughter, and that I should 
be glad to have the question submitted to them. She 
consented to this, and to the credit of the young ladies 
not one made objection. Not satisfied with this verdict 
of the natural and uncorrupted sense of justice and hu- 
manity of these young ladies, Miss Tracy insisted that 
the parents must be consulted, and if one of them objected 
she should not admit my child to the same apartment and 
privileges of the other pupils. One parent only had the 
cruelty to object, and he was Mr. Horatio G. Warner, a 
democratic editor, and upon his adverse conclusion my 
daughter was excluded from " Tracy Seminary." Of 
course Miss Tracy was a devout Christian lady after the 
fashion of the time and locality, in good and regular 
standing in the church. 

My troubles attending the education of my children 
were not to end here. They were not allowed in the 
public school in the district in which I lived, owned prop- 
erty, and paid taxes, but were compelled, if they w^ent to 
a public school, to go over to the other side of the city to 
an inferior colored school. I hardly need say that I was 
not prepared to submit tamely to this proscription, any 
more than I had been to submit to slavery, so I had them 
taught at home for a while by Miss Thayer. Meanwhile 
I went to the people with the question, and created 
considerable agitation. I sought and obtained a hearing 
before the Board of Education, and after repeated efforts 
with voice and pen the doors of the public schools were 
opened and colored children were permitted to attend 
them in common with others. 


There were barriers erected against colored people in 
most other places of instruction and amusement in the 
city, and until I went there they were imposed without 
any apparent sense of injustice and wrong, and submitted 
to in silence ; but one by one they have gradually been 
removed, and colored people now enter freely all places of 
public resort without hindrance or observation. This 
change has not been wholly effected by me. From the 
first I was cheered on and supported in my demands for 
equal rights by such respectable citizens as Isaac Post, 
Wm. Hallowell, Samuel D. Porter, Wm. C. Bloss, Benj. 
Fish, Asa Anthony, and many other good and true men 
of Rochester. 

Notwithstanding what I have said of the adverse feel- 
ing exhibited by some of its citizens at my selection of 
Rochester as the place to establish my paper, and the 
trouble in educational matters just referred to, that selec- 
tion was in many respects very fortunate. The city was 
and still is the center of a virtuous, intelligent, enterpris- 
ing, liberal, and growing population. The surrounding 
country is remarkable for its fertility, and the city itself 
possesses one of the finest water-powers in the world. It 
is on the line of the New York Central railroad — a line 
that, with its connections, spans the whole country. Its 
people were industrious and in comfortable circumstances 
— not so rich as to be indifferent to the claims of human- 
ity, and not so poor as to be unable to help any good 
cause which commanded the approval of their judgment. 

The ground had been measurably prepared for me by 
the labors of others — notably by Hon. Myron Holley, 
whose monument of enduring marble now stands in the 
beautiful cemetery at Mount Hope upon an eminence be- 
fitting his noble character. I know of no place in the 
Union where I could have located at the time with 
less resistance, or received a larger measure of sympathy 


and cooperation, and I now look back to my life and 
labors there witli unalloyed satisfaction, and having spent 
a quarter of a century among its people, I shall always 
feel more at home there than anywhere else in this 




My first meeting with Capt. Brown — The Free-Soil movement — Col- 
ored Convention — Uncle Tom's Cabin — Industrial School for col- 
ored people — Letter to Mrs. H. B. Stowe. 

ABOUT the time I began my. enterprise in Rochester 
I chanced to spend a night and a day under the 
roof of a man whose character and conversation, and 
whose objects and aims in life, made a very deep impres- 
sion upon my mind and heart. His name had been men- 
tioned to me by several prominent colored men, among 
whom were the Rev. Henry Highland Garnet and J. W. 
Loguen. In speaking of him their voices would drop to 
a whisper, and what they said of him made me very eager 
to see and know him. Fortunately, I was invited to see 
him in his own house. At the time to which I now refer 
this man was a respectable merchant in a populous 
and thriving city, and our first place of meeting was at 
his store. This was a substantial brick building on a 
prominent, busy street. A glance at the interior, as well 
as at the massive walls without, gave me the impression 
that the owner must be a man of considerable wealth. 
My welcome was all that I could have asked. Every 
member of the family, young and old, seemed glad to see 
me, and I was made much at home in a very little while. 
I was, however, a little disappointed with the appearance 
of the house and its location. After seeing the fine store 
I was prepared to see a fine residence in an eligible local- 
ity, but this conclusion was completely dispelled by actual 
observation. In fact, the house was neither commodious 




nor elegant, nor its situation desirable. It was a small 
wooden building on a back street, in a neighborhood 
chiefly occupied by laboring men and mechanics ; respect- 
able enough, to be sure, but not quite the place, I thought, 
where one would look for the residence of a flourishing 
and successful merchant. Plain as was the outside 
of this man's house, the inside was plainer. Its furni- 
ture would have satisfied a Spartan. It would take longer 
to tell what was not in this house than what was in 
it. There was an air of j^lainness about it which almost 
suggested destitution. My first meal passed under the 
misnomer of tea, though there was nothing about it 
resembling the usual significance of that term. It con- 
sisted of beef-soup, cabbage, and potatoes — a meal such as 
a man might relish after following the plow all day or 
performing a forced march of a dozen miles over a rough 
road in frosty weather. Innocent of paint, veneering, 
varnish, or table-cloth, the table announced itself unmis- 
takably of pine and of the plainest workmanship. There 
was no hired help visible. The mother, daughters, and 
sons did the serving, and did it well. They were evident- 
ly used to it, and had no thought of any impropriety or 
degradation in being their own servants. It is said that 
a house in some measure reflects the character of its oc- 
cupants ; this one certainly did. In it there were no 
disguises, no illusions, no make-believes. Everything 
implied stern truth, solid purpose, and rigid economy. I 
was not long in company with the master of this house 
before I discovered that he was indeed the master of it, 
and was likely to become mine too if I stayed long enough 
with him. He fulfilled St. Paul's idea of the head of the 
family. His wife believed in him, and his children 
observed him with reverence. Whenever he spoke his 
words commanded earnest attention. His arguments, 
which I ventured at some points to oppose, seemed to 


convince all ; his appeals touched all, and his will im- 
pressed all. Certainly I never felt myself in the presence 
of a stronger religious influence than while in this man's 

In person he was lean, strong, and sinewy, of the best 
New England mold, built for times of trouble, fitted to 
grapple with the flintiest hardships. Clad in plain Amer- 
ican woolen, shod in boots of cowhide leather, and wear- 
ing a cravat of the same substantial material, under six 
feet high, less than 150 pounds in weight, aged about 
fifty, he presented a figure straight and symmetrical as a 
mountain pine. His bearing was singularly impressive. 
His head was not large, but compact and high. His hair 
was coarse, strong, slightly gray and closely trimmed, 
and grew low on his forehead. His face was smoothly 
shaved, and revealed a strong, square mouth, supported 
by a broad and prominent chin. His eyes were bluish- 
gray, and in conversation they were full of light and fire. 
When on the street, he moved with a long, springing, 
race-horse step, absorbed by his own reflections, neither 
seeking nor shunning observation. Such was the man 
whose name I had heard in whispers ; such was the spirit 
of his house and family ; such was the house in which he 
lived ; and such was Captain John Brown, whose name 
has now passed into history, as one of the most marked 
characters and greatest heroes known to American fame. 

After the strong meal already described. Captain Brown 
cautiously approached the subject which he wished to 
bring to my attention; for he seemed to apprehend oppo- 
sition to his views. He denounced slavery in look and 
language fierce and bitter, thought that slaveholders had 
forfeited their right to live, that the slaves had the right 
to gain their liberty in any way they could, did not believe 
that moral suasion would ever liberate the slave, or that 
political action would abolish the system. He said that 


he had long had a plan which could accomplish this end, 
and he had invited me to his house to lay that plan before 
me. He said he had been for some time looking for 
colored men to whom he could safely reveal his secret, 
and at times he had almost despaired of finding such 
men ; but that now he was encouraged, for he saw heads 
of such rising up in all directions. He had observed my 
course at home and abroad, and he wanted my coopera- 
tion. His plan as it then lay in his mind had much to 
commend it. It did not, as some suppose, contemplate a 
general rising among the slaves, and a general slaughter 
of the slave-masters. An insurrection, he thought, would 
only defeat the object ; but his plan did contemplate the 
creating of an armed force which should act in the very 
heart of the South. He was not averse to the shedding 
of blood, and thought the practice of carrying arms would 
be a good one for the colored people to adopt, as it would 
give them a sense of their manhood. No people, he said, 
could have self-respect, or be respected, who would not 
fight for their freedom. He called my attention to a 
map of the United States, and pointed out to me the far- 
reaching Alleghanies, which stretch away from the bor- 
ders of New York into the Southern States. " These 
mountains," he said, " are the basis of my plan. God 
has given the strength of the hills to freedom ; they were 
placed here for the emancipation of the negro race; they 
are full of natural forts, where one man for defense will 
be equal to a hundred for attack ; they are full also of 
good hiding-places, where large numbers of brave men 
could be concealed, and baffle and elude pursuit for a 
long time. I know these mountains well, and could take 
a body of men into them and keep them there despite of 
all the efforts of Virginia to dislodge them. The true 
object to be sought is first of all to destroy the money 
value of slave property; and that can only be done by 

JOHN brown's plan. 341 

rendering such property insecure. My plan, then, is to 
take at first about twenty -five picked men, and begin on 
a small scale ; supply them arms and ammunition, post 
them in squads of fives on a line of twenty-five miles, the 
most persuasive and judicious of whom shall go down to 
the fields from time to time, as opportunity offers, and 
induce the slaves to join them, seeking and selecting the 
most restless and daring." 

He saw that in this part of the work the utmost care 
must be used to avoid treachery and disclosure. Only 
the most conscientious and skillful should be sent on this 
perilous duty; with care and enterprise he thought he 
could soon gather a force of one hundred hardy men, men 
who would be content to lead the free and adventurous 
life to which he proposed to train them; when these were 
properly drilled, and each man had found the place for 
which he was best suited, they would begin work in ear- 
nest; they would run off the slaves in large numbers, 
retain the brave and strong ones in the mountains, and 
send the weak and timid to the north by the underground 
railroad ; his operations would be enlarged with increas- 
ing numbers, and would not be confined to one locality. 

When I asked him, how he would support these men, 
he said emphatically, he would subsist them upon the 
enemy. Slavery was a state of war, and the slave had a 
right to anything necessary to his freedom. " But," said 
I, " suppose you succeed in running off a few slaves, and 
thus impress the Virginia slaveholders with a sense of 
insecurity in their slaves, the effect will be only to make 
them sell their slaves further south." "That," said he, 
" will be first what I want to do ; then I would follow 
them up. If we could drive slavery out of one county^ it 
would be a great gain; it would weaken the system 
throughout the State." " But they would employ blood- 
hounds to hunt you out of the mountains." " That they 


might attempt," said he, " but the chances are, we should 
whip them, and when we should have whipt one squad, 
they would be careful how they pursued." " But you 
might be surrounded and cut off from your provisions or 
means of subsistence." He thought that could not be 
done so they could not cut their way out, but even if the 
worst came he could but be killed, and he had- no better 
use for his life than to lay it down in the cause of the 
slave. When I suggested that we might convert the 
slaveholders, he became much excited, and said that 
could nevei* be, " he knew their proud hearts and that 
they would never be induced to give up their slaves, until 
they felt a big stick about their heads." He observed 
that I might have noticed the simple manner in which he 
lived, adding that he had adopted this method in order to 
save money to carry out his purposes. This was said in 
no boastful tone, for he felt that he had delayed already 
too long, and had no room to boast either his zeal or his 
self-denial. Had some men made such display of rigid 
virtue, I should have rejected it, as affected, false, and 
hypocritical, but in John Brown, I felt it to be real as 
iron or granite. From this night spent with John Brown 
in Springfield, Mass., 1847, while I continued to write 
and speak against slavery, I became all the same less 
hopeful of its peaceful abolition. My utterances became 
more and more tinged by the color of this man's strong 
impressions. Speaking at an anti-slavery convention in 
Salem, Ohio, I expressed this apprehension that slavery 
could only be destroyed by blood-shed, when I was sud- 
denly and sharply interrupted by my good old friend 
Sojourner Truth with the question, " Frederick, is God 
dead ? " " No," I answered, " and because God is not 
dead slavery can only end in blood." My quaint old 
sister was of the Garrison school of non-resistants, and 
was shocked at my sanguinary doctrine, but she too 


became an advocate of the sword, when the war for the 
maintenance of the Union was declared. 

In 1848 it was my privilege to attend, and in some 
measure to participate in the famous Free-Soil Conven- 
tion held in Buffalo, New York. It was a vast and 
variegated assemblage, composed of persons from all 
sections of the North, and may be said to have formed 
a new departure in the history of forces organized to 
resist the growing and aggressive demands of slavery 
and the slave power. Until this Buffalo convention, 
anti-slavery agencies had been mainly directed to the 
work of changing public sentiment by exposing through 
the press and on the platform the nature of the slave 
system. Anti-slavery thus far had only been sheet-light- 
ning ; the Buffalo convention sought to make it a thunder- 
bolt. It is true the Liberty party, a political organization, 
had been in existence since 1840, when it cast seven 
thousand votes for James G. Birney, a former slaveholder, 
but who, in obedience to an enlightened conscience, had 
nobly emancipated his slaves, and was now devoting his 
time and talents to the overthrow of slavery. It is true 
that this little party of brave men had increased their 
numbers at one time to sixty thousand voters. It, however, 
had now apparently reached its culminating point, and 
was no longer able to attract itself and combine all the 
available elements at the North capable of being mar- 
shaled against the growing and aggressive measures and 
aims of the slave power. There were many in the old 
Whig party known as Conscience-Whigs, and in the Dem- 
ocratic party known as Barn-burners and Free Democrats, 
who were anti-slavery in sentiment and utterly opposed 
to the extension of the slave system to territory hitherto 
uncursed by its presence, but who, nevertheless, were not 
willing to join the Liberty party. It was held to be 
deficient in numbers and wanting in prestige. Its fate 


was the fate of all pioneers. The work it had been re- 
quired to perform had exposed it to assaults from all 
sides, and it wore on its front the ugly marks of conflict. 
It was unpopular for its very fidelity to the cause of lib- 
erty and justice. No wonder that some of its members, 
such as Gerrit Smith, William Goodell, Beriah Green, 
and Julius Lemoyne, refused to quit the old for the new. 
They felt that the Free-Soil party was a step backward, a 
lowering of the standard ; that the people should come to 
them, not they to the people. The party which had been 
good enough for them ought to be good enough for 
all others. Events, however, overruled this reasoning. 
The conviction became general that the time had come for 
a new organization which should embrace all who were in 
any manner opposed to slavery and the slave power, and 
this Buffalo Free-Soil convention was the result of that 
conviction. It is easy to say that this or that measure 
would have been wiser and better than the one adopted. 
But any measure is vindicated by its necessity and results. 
It was impossible for the mountain to go to Mahomet, or 
for the Free-Soil element to go to the old Liberty party ; 
so the latter went to the former. " All is well that ends 
well." This Buffalo convention of free-soilers, however 
low was their standard, did lay the foundation of a grand 
superstructure. It was a powerful link in the chain 
of events by whicli the slave system has been abolished, 
the slave emancipated, and the country saved from dis- 

It is nothing against the actors in this new movement 
that they did not see the end from the beginning ; that 
they did not at first take the high ground that further on 
in the conflict their successors felt themselves called upon 
to take, or that their Free-Soil party, like the old Liberty 
party, was ultimately required to step aside and make 
room for the great Republican party. In all this and 


more it illustrates the experience of reform in all ages, and 
conforms to the laws of human progress. Measures 
change, principles never. 

I was not the only colored man well known to the coun- 
try who was present at this convention. Samuel Ringold 
Ward, Henry Highland Garnet, Charles L. Remond, and 
Henry Bibb were there and made speeches which* 
were received with surprise and gratification by the thou- 
sands there assembled. Asa colored man I felt greatly 
encouraged and strengthened for my cause while listening 
to these men, in the presence of the ablest men of the 
Caucasian race. Mr. Ward especially attracted attention 
at that convention. As an orator and thinker he was 
vastly superior, I thought, to any of us, and being per- 
fectly black and of unmixed African descent, the splen- 
dors of his intellect went directly to the glory of race. In 
depth of thought, fluency of speech, readiness of wit, log- 
ical exactness, and general intelligence, Samuel R. Ward 
has left no successor among the colored men amongst us, 
and it was a sad day for our cause when he was laid low 
in the soil of a foreign country. 

After the Free-Soil party, with " Free Soil," " Free 
Labor," " Free States," " Free Speech," and " Free Men " 
on its banner, had defeated the almost permanently victo- 
rious Democratic party under the leadership of so able 
and popular a standard-bearer as General Lewis Cass, Mr. 
Calhoun and other southern statesmen were more than 
ever alarmed at the rapid increase of anti-slavery feeling 
in the North, and devoted their energies more and more 
to the work of devising means to stay the torrents and tie 
up the storm. They were not ignorant of whereunto this 
sentiment would grow if unsubjected and unextinguished. 
Hence they became fierce and furious in debate, and more 
extravagant than ever in their demands for additional 
safeguards for their system of robbery and murder. 


Assuming that the Constitution guaranteed their rights 
of property in their fellow-men, they held it to be in open 
violation of the Constitution for any American citizen in 
any part of the United States to speak, write, or act against 
this right. But this shallow logic they plainly saw could 
do them no good unless they could obtain further safe- 
guards for slavery. In order to effect this the idea of so 
changing the Constitution was suggested that there 
should be two instead of one President of the United 
States — one from the North and the other from the South 
— and that no measure should become a law without the 
assent of both. But this device was so utterly impracti- 
cable that it soon dropped out of sight, and it is men- 
tioned here only to show the desperation of slaveholders 
to prop up their system of barbarism against which the 
sentiment of the North was being directed with destruct- 
ive skill and effect. They clamored for more slave States, 
more power in the Senate and House of Representatives, 
and insisted upon the suppression of free speech. At the 
end of two years, in 1850, when Clay and Calhoun, two 
of the ablest leaders the South ever had, were still in the 
Senate, we had an attempt at a settlement of differences 
between the North and South which our legislators 
meant to be final. What those measures were I need not 
here enumerate, except to say that chief among them was 
the Fugitive Slave Bill, framed by James M. Mason 
of Virginia and supported by Daniel Webster of Massa- 
chusetts — a bill undoubtedly more designed to involve the 
North in complicity with slavery and deaden its moral 
sentiment than to procure the return of fugitives to their 
so-called owners. For a time this design did not alto- 
gether fail. Letters, speeches, and pamphlets literally 
rained down upon the people of the North, reminding 
them of their constitutional duty to hunt down and return 
to bondage runaway slaves. In this the preachers were 


not much behind the press and the politicians, especially 
that class of preachers known as Doctors of Divinity. A 
lone: list of these came forward with their Bibles to show 
that neither Christ nor his holy apostles objected to 
returning fugitives to slavery. Now that that evil day is 
past, a sight of those sermons would, I doubt not, bring 
the red blush of shame to the cheeks of many. 

Living as I then did in Rochester, on the border of Can- 
ada, I was compelled to see the terribly distressing effects 
of this cruel enactment. Fugitive slaves who had lived 
for many years safely and securely in western New York 
and elsewhere, some of whom had by industry and econo- 
my saved money and bought little homes for themselves 
and their children, were suddenly alarmed and compelled 
to flee to Canada for safety as from an enemy's land 
— a doomed city — and take up a dismal march to a new 
abode, empty-handed, among strangers. My old friend 
Ward, of whom I have just now spoken, found it necessa- 
ry to give up the contest and flee to Canada, and 
thousands followed his example. Bishop Daniel A. Payne 
of the African Methodist Episcopal Church came to me 
about this time to consult me as to whether it was best to 
stand our ground or flee to Canada. When I told him I 
could not desert my post until I saw I could not hold it, 
adding that I did not wish to leave while Garnet and 
Ward remained, "Why," said he, "Ward? Ward, he 
is already gone. I saw him crossing from Detroit to 
AVindsor." I asked him if he were going to stay, and he 
answered : " Yes ; we are whipped, we are whipped, 
and we might as well retreat in order." This was indeed 
a stunning blow. This man had power to do more to de- 
feat this inhuman enactment than any other colored man 
in the land, for no other could bring such brain power to 
bear against it. I felt like a besieged city at news that its 
defenders had fallen at its gates. The hardships imposed 


by this atrocious and shameless law were cruel and shock- 
ing, and yet only a few of all the fugitives of the North- 
ern States were returned to slavery under its infamous- 
ly wicked provisions. As a means of recapturing 
their runaway property in human flesh the law was an 
utter failure. Its efficiency was destroyed by its enor- 
mity. Its chief effect was to produce alarm and terror 
among the class subject to its operation, and this it did 
most effectually and distressingly. Even colored people 
who had been free all their lives felt themselves very 
insecure in their freedom, for under this law the oaths of 
any two villains were sufficient to consign a free man to 
slavery for life. While the law was a terror to the free, 
it was a still greater terror to the escaped bondman. To 
him there was no peace. Asleep or awake, at work or at 
rest, in church or market, he was liable to surprise and 
capture. By the law the judge got ten dollars a head for 
all he could consign to slavery, and only five dollars 
apiece for any which he might adjudge free. Although I 
was now myself free, I was not without apprehension. 
My purchase was of doubtful validity, having been bought 
when out of the possession of my owner and when he 
must take what was given or take nothing. It was a 
question whether my claimant could be estopped by such 
a sale from asserting certain or supposable equitable 
rights in my body and soul. From rumors that reached 
me my house was guarded by my friends several nights, 
when kidnappers, had they come, would have got any- 
thing but a cool reception, for there would have been 
" blows to take as well as blows to give." Happily this 
reign of terror did not continue long. Despite the efforts 
of Daniel Webster and Millard Fillmore and our Doctors 
of Divinity, the law fell rapidly into disrepute. The 
rescue of Shadrack resulting in the death of one of the 
kidnappers, in Boston, the cases of Simms and Anthony 


Burns, in the same place, created the deepest feehng 
against the law and its upholders. But the thing 
which more than all else destroyed the fugitive slave law 
was the resistance made to it by the fugitives themselves. 
A decided check was given to the execution of the law at 
Christiana, Penn., where three colored men, being pur- 
sued by Mr. Gorsuch and his son, slew the father, 
wounded the son, and drove away the officers, and made 
their escape to my house in Rochester. The work of 
getting these men safely into Canada was a delicate one. 
They were not only fugitives from slavery but charged 
with murder, and officers were in pursuit of them. There 
was no time for delay. I could not look upon them as 
murderers. To me, they were heroic defenders of the 
just rights of man against manstealers and murderers. 
So I fed them, and sheltered them in my house. Had 
they been pursued then and there, my home would have 
been stained with blood, for tliese men who had already 
tasted blood were well armed and prepared to sell their 
lives at any expense to the lives and limbs of their prob- 
ble assailants. What they had already done at Christiana 
and the cool determination which showed very plainly 
especially in Parker, (for that was the name of the 
leader,) left no doubt on my mind that their courage was 
genuine and that their deeds would equal their words. 
The situation was critical and dangerous. The telegraph 
had that day announced their deeds at Christiana, their 
escape, and that the mountains of Pennsylvania were 
being searched for the murderers. These men had 
reached me simultaneously with this news in the New 
York papers. Immediately after the occurrence at 
Christiana, they, instead of going into the mountains, 
were placed on a train which brought them to Rochester. 
They were thus almost in advance of the lightning, and 
much in advance of probable pursuit, unless the telegraph 


had raised agents already here. The hours the}^ spent at my 
house were therefore hours of anxiety as well as activity. 
I dispatched my friend Miss Julia Griffiths to the land- 
ing three miles away on the Genesee Eiver to ascertain 
if a steamer would leave that night for any port in Can- 
ada, and remained at home myself to guard my tired, 
diist-covered, and sleeping guests, for they had been har- 
assed and traveling for two days and nights, and needed 
rest. Happily for us the suspense was not long, for it 
turned out that that very night a steamer was to leave 
for Toronto, Canada. 

This fact, however, did not end my anxiety. There 
was danger that between my house and the landing or at 
the landing itself we might meet with trouble. Indeed 
the landing was the place where trouble was likely to 
occur if at all. As patiently as I could, I waited for the 
shades of night to come on, and then put the men in my 
" Democrat carriage," and started for the landing on the 
Genesee. It was an exciting ride, and somewhat speedy 
withal. We reached the boat at least fifteen minutes 
before the time of its departure, and that without remark 
or molestation. But those fifteen minutes seemed much 
longer than usual. I remained on board till the order to 
haul in the gang-plank was given ; I shook hands with 
my friends, received from Parker the revolver that fell 
from the hand of Gorsuch when he died, presented now 
as a token of gratitude and a memento of the battle for 
Liberty at Christiana, and I returned to my home with 
a sense of relief which I cannot stop here to describe. 
This affair, at Christiana, and the Jerry rescue at Syra- 
cuse, inflicted fatal wounds on the fugitive slave bill. It 
became thereafter almost a dead letter, for slaveholders 
found that not only did it fail to put them in possession 
of their slaves, but that the attempt to enforce it brouglit 
odium upon themselves and weakened the slave system. 

UNCLE tom's cabin. 351 

III the midst of tliese fugitive slave troubles came the 
book known as Uncle Tom's Cabin, a work of marvelous 
depth and power. Nothing could have better suited the 
moral and humane requirements of the hour. Its effect 
was amazing, instantaneous, and universal. No book on 
the subject of slavery had so generally and favorably 
touched the American heart. It combined all the power 
and pathos of preceding publications of the kind, and was 
hailed by many as an inspired production. Mrs. Stowe 
at once became an object of interest and admiration. 
She had made fortune and fame at home, and had 
awakened a deep interest abroad. Eminent persons in 
England, roused to anti-slavery enthusiasm by her " Uncle 
Tom's Cabin," invited her to visit that country, and prom- 
ised to give her a testimonial. Mrs. Stowe accepted the 
invitation and the proffered testimonial. Before sailing 
for England, however, she invited me from Rocliester, N. 
Y., to spend a day at her house in Andover, Mass. 
Delighted with an opportunity to become personally 
acquainted with the gifted authoress, I lost no time in 
making my way to Andover. I was received at her home 
with genuine cordiality. There was no contradiction 
between the author and her book. Mrs. Stowe appeared 
in conversation equally as well as she appeared in her 
writing. She made to me a nice little speech in announc- 
ing her object in sending for me. " I have invited you 
here," she said, ''because I wish to confer with you as to 
what can be done for the free colored people of the coun- 
try. I am going to England and expect to have a con- 
siderable sum of money placed in my hands, and I intend 
to use it in some way for the permanent improvement of 
the free colored people, and especially for that class which 
has become free by their own exertions. In what way I 
can do this most successfully is the subject I wish to 
talk with you about. In any event I desire to have some 


monument rise after Uncle Tom's Cabin, which shall 
show that it produced more than a transient influence." 
She said several plans had been suggested, among others 
an educational institution pure and simple, but that she 
thought favorably of the establishment of an industrial 
school ; and she desired me to express my views as to 
what I thought would be the best plan to help the free 
colored people. I was not slow to tell Mrs. Stowe all I 
knew and had thought on the subject. As to a purely 
educational institution, I agreed with her that it did not 
meet our necessities. I argued against expending money 
in that way. I was also opposed to an ordinary indus- 
trial school where pupils should merely earn the means 
of obtaining an education in books. There were 
such schools, already. What I thought of as best 
was rather a series of workshops, where colored 
people could learn some of the handicrafts, learn 
to work in iron, wood, and leather, and where a 
plain English education could also be taught. I argued 
that the want of money was the root of all evil to the 
colored people. They were shut out from all lucrative 
employments and compelled to be merely barbers, waiters, 
coachmen, and the like, at wages so low that they could 
lay up little or nothing. Their poverty kept them igno- 
rant and their ignorance kept them degraded. We 
needed more to learn how to make a good living than to 
learn Latin and Greek. After listening to me at con- 
siderable length, she was good enough to tell me that 
she favored my views, and would devote the money she 
expected to receive abroad to meeting the want I had 
described as the most important; by establishing an 
institution in which colored youth should learn trades as 
well as to read, write, and count. When about to leave 
Andover, Mrs. Stowe asked me to put my views on the 
subject in the form of a letter, so that she could take it 


to England with her and show it to her friends there, 
that they might see to what their contributions were to 
be devoted. I acceded to her request and wrote her the 
following letter for the purpose named : 

KocHESTER, March 8, 1853. 
My Dear Mrs. Stowe : 

You kindly informed me, when at your house a fortnight ago, that 
you designed to do something which should permanently contribute 
to the improvement and elevation of the free colored people in the 
United States. You especially expressed an interest in such of this 
class as had become free by their own exertions, and desired most of 
all to be of service to them. In what manner and by what means 
you can assist this class most successfully, is the subject upon which 
you have done me the honor to ask my opinion, ... I assert, then, 
that poverty, ignorance, and degradation are the combined evils ; or in 
other words, these constitute the social disease of the free colored 
people of the United States. 

To deliver them from this triple malady is to improve and elevate 
them, by which I mean simply to put them on an equal footing with 
their white fellow-countrymen in the sacred right to "Life, Liberty, 
and the pursuit of happiness." I am for no fancied or artificial 
elevation, but only ask fair play. How shall this be obtained? I 
answer, first, not by establishing for our use high schools and col- 
leges. Such institutions are, in my judgment, beyond our immediate 
occasions and are not adapted to our present most pressing wants. 
High schools and colleges are excellent institutions, and will in due 
season be greatly subservient to our progress ; but they are the result, 
as well as they are the demand, of a point of progress which we as a 
people have not yet attained. Accustomed as we have been to the 
rougher and harder modes of living, and of gaining a livelihood, we 
cannot and we ought not to hope that in a single leap from our low 
condition, we can reach that of Ministers, Lawyers, Doctors, Editors, 
Merchants, etc. These will doubtless be attained by us ; but this will 
only be when we have patiently and laboriously, and I may add suc- 
cessfully, mastered and passed through the intermediate gradations 
of agriculture and the mechanic arts. Besides, there are (and perhaps 
this is a better reason for my view of the case) numerous institutions 
of learning in this country, already thrown open to colored youth. 
To my thinking, there are quite as many facilities now afforded to 
the colored people as they can spare the time, from the sterner duties 
of life, to avail themselves of. In their present condition of poverty, 
they cannot spare their sons and daughters two or three years at 


boarding-schools or colleges, to say nothing of finding the means to 
sustain them while at such institutions. I take it, therefore, that we 
are well provided for in this respect; and that it may be fairly 
inferred from the fact, that the facilities for our education, so far as 
schools and colleges in the Free States are concerned, will increase 
quite in proportion with our future wants. Colleges have been open 
to colored youth in this country during the last dozen years. Yet 
few, comparatively, have acquired a classical education; and even 
this few have found themselves educated far above a living condition, 
there being no methods by which they could turn their learning to 
account. Several of this latter class have entered the ministry ; but 
you need not be told that an educated people is needed to sustain an 
educated ministry. There must be a certain amount of cultivation 
among the people, to sustain such a ministry. At present we have 
not that cultivation amongst us; and, therefore, we value in the 
preacher strong lungs rather than high learning. I do not say that 
educated ministers are not needed amongst us, far from it! I wish 
there were more of them! but to increase their number is not the 
largest benefit you can bestow upon us. 

We have two or three colored lawyers in this country ; and I rejoice 
in the fact; for it affords very gratifjdng evidence of our progress. 
Yet it must be confessed that, in point of success, our lawyers are as 
great failures as our ministers. White people will not employ them 
to the obvious embarrassment of their causes, and the blacks, taking 
their cue from the whites, have not sufficient confidence in their 
abilities to employ them. Hence educated colored men, among the 
colored people, are at a very great discount. It would seem that 
education and emigration go together with us, for as soon as a man 
rises amongst us, capable, by his genius and learning, to do us great 
service, just so soon he finds that he can serve himself better by going 
elsewhere. In proof of this, I might instance the Russwurms, the 
Garnetts, the Wards, the Crummells, and others, all men of superior 
ability and attainments, and capable of removing mountains of preju- 
dice against their race, by their simple presence in the country; but 
these gentlemen, finding themselves embarrassed here by the peculiar 
disadvantages to which I have referred, disadvantages in part grow- 
ing out of their education, being repelled by ignorance on the one 
hand, and prejudice on the other, and having no taste to continue a 
contest against such odds, they have sought more congenial climes, 
where they can live more peaceable and quiet lives. I regret their 
election, but I cannot blame them; for with an equal amount of 
education, and the hard lot which was theirs, I might follow their 
example. . . . 

There is little reason to hope that any considerable number of the 


free colored people will ever be induced to leave this country, even if 
such a thing were desirable. The black man {unlike the Indian) loves 
civilization. He does not make very great progress in civilization 
himself, but he likes to be in the midst of it, and prefers to share its 
most galling evils, to encountering barbarism. Then the love of 
country, the dread of isolation, the lack of adventurous spirit, and 
the thought of seeming to desert their "brethren in bonds," are a 
powerful check upon all schemes of colonization, which look to the 
removal of the colored people, without the slaves. The truth is, dear 
madam, we are Tiere, and here we are likely to remain. Individuals 
emigrate — nations never. We have grown up with this republic, and 
I see nothing in her character, or even in the character of the Ameri- 
can people, as yet, which compels the belief that we must leave the 
United States. If, then, we are to remain here, the question for the 
wise and good is precisely t^at you have submitted to me — namely : 
What can be done to improve the condition of the free people of color 
in the United States? The plan which I humbly submit in answer to 
this inquiry (and in the hope that it may find favor with you, and 
with the many friends of humanity who honor, love, and cooperate 
with you) is the establishment in Rochester, N. Y. , or in some other 
part of the United States equally favorable to such an enterprise, of 
an Industrial College in which shall be taught several important 
branches of the mechanic arts. This college to be open to colored 
youth. I will pass over the details of such an institution as I pro- 
pose. . . . Never having had a day's schooling in all my life, I may 
not be expected to map out the details of a plan so comprehensive as 
that involved in the idea of a college. I repeat, then, I leave the 
organization and administration to the superior wisdom of yourself 
and the friends who second your noble efforts. The argument in 
favor of an Industrial College (a college to be conducted by the best 
men, and the best workmen which the mechanic arts can afford ; a 
college where colored youth can be instructed to use their hands, as 
well as their heads ; where they can be put in possession of the means 
of getting a living whether their lot in after life may be cast among 
civilized or uncivilized men; whether they choose to stay here, or 
prefer to return to the land of their fathers) is briefly this: Prejudice 
against the free colored people in the United States has shown itself 
nowhere so invincible as among mechanics. The farmer and the 
professional man cherish no feeling so bitter as that cherished by 
these. The latter would starve us out of the country entirely. At 
this moment I can more easily get my son into a lawyer's ofiice to 
study law than I can into a blacksmith's shop to blow the bellows and 
to wield the sledge-hammer. Denied the means of learning useful 
trades, we are pressed into the narrowest limits to obtain a livelihood. 


In times past we have been the hewers of wood and drawers of water 
for American society, and we once enjoyed a monopoly in menial 
employments, but this is so no longer. Even these employments are 
rapidly passing away out of our hands. The fact is (every day begins 
with the lesson, and ends with the lesson) that colored men must 
learn trades ; must find new employments ; new modes of usefulness 
to society, or that they must decay under the pressing wants to which 
their condition is rapidly bringing them. 

We must become mechanics; we must build as well as live in 
houses ; we must make as well as use furniture ; we must construct 
bridges as well as pass over them, before we can properly live or be 
respected by our fellow men. We need mechanics as well as minis- 
ters. We need workers in iron, clay, and leather. We have orators, 
authors, and other professional men, but these reach only a certain 
class, and get respect for our race in certain select circles. To live 
here as we ought we must fasten ourselves to our countrymen through 
their evcry-day, cardinal wants. We must not only be able to Mack 
boots, but to make them. At present we are unknown in the northern 
States as mechanics. We give no proof of genius or skill at the 
county, State, or national fairs. We are unknown at any of the 
great exhibitions of the industry of our fellow-citizens, and being 
unknown, we are unconsidered. 

The fact that we make no show of our ability is held conclusive of 
our inability to make any, hence all the indifference and contempt 
with which incapacity is regarded fall upon us, and that too when 
we have had no means of disproving the infamous opinion of our 
natural inferiority. I have, during the last dozen years, denied 
before the Americans that we are an inferior race; but this has been 
done by arguments based upon admitted principles rather than by the 
presentation of facts. Now, firmly believing, as I do, that there are 
skill, invention, power, industry, and real mechanical genius among 
the colored people, which will bear favorable testimony for them, 
and which only need the means to develop them, I am decidedly in 
favor of the establishment of such a college as I have mentioned. 
The benefits of such an institution would not be confined to the 
Northern States, nor to the free colored people. They would extend 
over the whole Union. The slave not less than the freeman would be 
benefited by such an institution. It must be confessed that the most 
powerful argument now used by the southern slaveholder, and the 
one most soothing to his conscience, is that derived from the low 
condition of the free colored people of the North. I have long felt 
that too little attention has been given by our truest friends in this 
country to removing this stumbling-block out of the way of the 
slave's liberation. 


The most telling, the most killing refutation of slavery is the pre- 
sentation of an industrious, enterprising, thrifty, and intelligent free 
black population. Such a population I believe would rise in the 
Northern States under the fostering care of such a college as that 

To show that we are capable of becoming mechanics I might ad- 
duce any amount of testimony; but, dear madam, I need not ring the 
changes on such a proposition. There is no question in the mind of 
any unprejudiced person that the Negro is capable of making a good 
mechanic. Indeed, even those who cherish the bitterest feelings 
toward us have admitted that the apprehension that negroes might be 
employed in their stead dictated the policy of excluding them from 
trades altogether. But I will not dwell upon this point, as I fear I 
have already trespassed too long upon your precious time, and written 
more than I ought to expect you to read. Allow me to say in conclu- 
sion that I believe every intelligent colored man in America will 
approve and rejoice at the establishment of some such institution as 
that now suggested. There are many respectable colored men, fathers 
of large families, having boys nearly grown up, whose minds are 
tossed by day and by night with the anxious inquiry. What shall I do 
with my boys? Such an institution would meet the wants of such 
persons. Then, too, the establishment of such an institution would 
be in character with the eminently practical philanthropy of your 
transatlantic friends. America could scarcely object to it as an at- 
tempt to agitate the public mind on the subject of slavery, or to 
dissolve the Union. It could not be tortured into a cause for hard 
words by the American people, but the noble and good of all classes 
would see in the effort an excellent motive, a benevolent object, tem- 
perately, wisely, and practically manifested. 

Wishing you, dear madam, renewed health, a pleasant passage, and 

safe return to your native land, 

I am, most truly, your grateful friend, 

Fkederick Douglass. 
Mrs. H. B. Stowe. 

I was not only requested to write the foregoing letter 
for the purpose indicated, but I was also asked, with ad- 
mirable foresight, to see and ascertain, as far as possible, 
the views of the free colored people themselves in respect 
to the proposed measure for their benefit. This I was 
enabled to do in July, 1853, at the largest and most 
enlightened colored couA^ention that, up to that time, had 
ever assembled in this country. This convention warmly 


approved the plan of a manual labor school, as already 
described, and expressed high appreciation of the wisdom 
and benevolence of Mrs. Stowe. This convention was 
held in Rochester, N. Y., and will long be remembered 
there for the surprise and gratification it caused our 
friends in that city. They were not looking for such ex- 
hibitions of enlightened zeal and ability as were there dis- 
played in speeches, addresses, and resolutions, and in the 
conduct of the business for which it had assembled. Its 
proceedings attracted widespread attention at home and 

While Mrs. Stowe was abroad she was attacked by the 
pro-slavery press of our country so persistently and vigor- 
ously for receiving money for her own private use that the 
Eev. Henry Ward Beecher felt called upon to notice and 
reply to them in the columns of the New York Indepeiid- 
ent, of which he was then the editor. He denied that 
Mrs. Stowe was gathering British gold for herself, and re- 
ferred her assailants to me if they would learn what she 
intended to do with the money. In answer to her 
maligners, I denounced their accusations as groundless, 
and assured the public through the columns of my paper 
that the testimonial then being raised in England by Mrs. 
Stowe would be sacredly devoted to the establishment of 
an industrial school for colored youth. This announce- 
ment was circulated by other journals, and the attacks 
ceased. Nobody could well object to such application 
of money received from any source, at home or abroad. 
After her return to this country I called again on Mrs. 
Stowe, and was much disappointed to learn from her that 
she had reconsidered her plan for the industrial school. I 
have never been able to see any force in the reasons for 
this change. It is enough, however, to say that they were 
sufficient for her, and that she no doubt acted conscien- 
tiously, though her change of purpose was a great disap- 


pointment, and placed me in an awkward position before 
the colored people of this country, as well as to friends 
abroad, to whom I had given assurances that the money 
would be appropriated in the manner I have described. 



Increased demands of slavery — War in Kansas — John Brown's raid — 
His capture and execution — My escape to England from United 
States marshals. 

NOTWITHSTANDING the natural tendency of the 
human mind to weary of an old story, and to turn 
away from chronic abuses for which it sees no remedy, the 
anti-slavery agitation for thirty long years (from 1830 to 
1860) was sustained with ever-increasing intensity and 
power. This was not entirely due to the extraordinary 
zeal and ability of the anti-slavery agitators themselves, 
for, with all their admitted ardor and eloquence, they 
could have done very little without the aid rendered them 
unwittingly by the aggressive character of slavery itself. 
It was in the nature of the system never to rest in 
obscurity, although that condition was in a high degree 
essential to its security. It was forever forcing itself 
into prominence. Unconscious, apparently, of its own 
deformity, it omitted no occasion for inviting disgust 
by seeking approval and admiration. It was noisiest when 
it should have been most silent and u^^obtrusive. One of 
its defenders, when asked what would satisfy him as 
a slaveholder, said he " never would be satisfied until he 
could call the roll of his slaves in the shadow of Bunker 
Hill monument." Every effort made to put down agita- 
tion only served to imjDart to it new strength and vigor. 
Of this class was the " gag rule " attempted and partially 
enforced in Congress ; the attempted suppression of the 
right of petition; the mobocratic demonstrations against 



the exercise of free speech ; the display of pistols, bludg- 
eons, and plantation manners in the Congress of the 
nation ; the demand shamelessly made by our government 
upon England for the return of slaves who had won their 
liberty by their valor on the high seas ; the bill for the 
recapture of runaway slaves ; the annexation of Texas for 
the avowed purpose of increasing the number of slave 
States, and thus increasing the power of slavery in 
the Union ; the war with Mexico ; the filibustering expe- 
ditions against Cuba and Central America ; the cold- 
blooded decision of Chief Justice Taney in the Dred Scott 
case, wherein he states, as it were, a historical fact that 
" negroes are deemed to have no rights which white men 
are bound to respect " ; the perfidious repeal of the Mis-" 
souri compromise when all its advantages to the South 
had been gained and appropriated, and when nothing had 
been gained by the North ; the armed and bloody attempt 
to force slavery upon the virgin soil of Kansas ; the efforts 
of both of the great political parties to drive from place 
and power every man suspected of ideas and principles 
hostile to slavery ; the rude attacks made upon Giddings, 
Hale, Chase, Wilson, Wm. H. Seward, and Charles Sum- 
ner ; the effort to degrade these brave men and drive 
them from positions of prominence ; the summary manner 
in which Virginia hanged John Brown ; in a word, what- 
ever was done or attempted with a view to the support 
and security of slavery, only served as fuel to the fire, and 
heated the furnace of agitation to a higher degree 
tlian any before attained. This was true up to the mo- 
ment when the nation found it necessary to gird on the 
sword for the salvation of the country and the destruction 
of slavery. 

At no time during all the ten years preceding the war 
was the public mind at rest. Mr. Clay's compromise 
measures in 1850, whereby all the troubles of the country 

362 ELECTION OF 1856. 

about slavery were to be " in the deep bosom of the ocean 
buried," were hardly dry on the pages of the statute book 
before the whole land was rocked with rumored agitation, 
and for one I did my best by pen and voice and by cease- 
less activity to keep it alive and vigorous. Later on, in 
1854, we had the Missouri compromise, which removed 
the only grand legal barrier against the spread of 
slavery over all tlie territory of the United States. 
From this time there was no pause, no repose. Every- 
body, however dull, .could see that this was a phase of the 
slavery question whicli was not to be slighted or ignored. 
The people of the North had been accustomed to ask, in 
a tone of cruel indifference, " What have we to do with 
slavery ? " and now no labored speech was required in 
answer. Slaveholding aggression settled this question 
for us. The presence of slavery in a territory would cer- 
tainly exclude the sons and daughters of the free States 
more effectually than statutes or yellow fever. Those 
who cared nothing for the slave, and were willing to 
tolerate slavery inside the slave States, were neverthe- 
less not quite prepared to find themselves and their chil- 
dren excluded from the common inheritance of the nation. 
It is not surprising, therefore, that the public mind of the 
North was easily kept intensely alive on this subject, nor 
that in 1856 an alarming expression of feeling on this 
point was seen in the large vote given for John C. Fre- 
mont and William L. Dayton for President and Vice- 
President of the United States. Until this last uprising 
of the North against the slave power the anti-slavery 
movement was largely retained in the hands of the 
original abolitionists, whose most prominent leaders have 
already been mentioned elsewhere in this volume. After 
1856 a mightier arm and a more numerous host was 
raised against it, the agitation becoming broader and 
deeper. The times at this point illustrated the principle 


of tension and compression, action and reaction. The 
more open, flagrant, and impudent the slave power, the 
more firmly it was confronted by the rising anti-slavery 
spirit of the North. No one act did more to rouse the North 
to a comprehension of the infernal and barbarous spirit 
of slavery and its determination to " rule or ruin," than 
the cowardly and brutal assault made in the American 
Senate upon Charles Sumner, by Preston S. Brooks, a 
member of Congress from South Carolina. Shocking 
and scandalous as was this attack, the spirit in which the 
deed was received and commended by the community 
was still more disgraceful. Southern ladies even ap- 
plauded the armed bully for his murderous assault upon 
an unarmed northern Senator, because of words spoken 
in debate ! This more than all else told the thoughtful 
people of the North the kind of civilization to which they 
were linked, and how plainly it foreshadowed a conflict 
on a larger scale. 

As a measure of agitation, the repeal of the Missouri 
Compromise alluded to was perhaps the most effective. 
It was that which brought Abraham Lincoln into promi- 
nence, and into conflict with Stephen A. Douglas (who 
was the author of that measure) and compelled the 
Western States to take a deeper interest than they ever 
had done before in the whole question. Pregnant words 
were now spoken on the side of freedom, words which 
went straight to the heart of the nation. It was Mr. 
Lincoln who told the American people at this crisis that 
the " Union could not long endure half slave and half 
free ; that they must be all one or the other, and that 
the public mind could find no resting place but in the 
belief in the ultimate extinction of slavery." These were 
not the words of an abolitionist — branded a fanatic, and 
carried away by an enthusiastic devotion to the Negro — 
but the calm, cool, deliberate utterance of a statesman, 


conipreliensive enough to take in the welfare of the whole 
country. No wonder that the friends of freedom saw in 
this j)lain man of Illinois the proper standard-bearer of 
all the moral and political forces which could be united 
and wielded against the slave power. In a few simple 
words he had embodied the thought of the loyal nation, 
and indicated the character fit to lead and guide the 
country amid perils present and to come. 

The South was not far behind the North in recognizing 
Abraham Lincoln as the natural leader of the rising 
political sentiment of the country against slavery, and it 
was equally quick in its efforts to counteract and destroy 
his influence. Its papers teemed with the bitterest 
invectives against the " backwoodsman of Illinois," the 
" flat-boatman," the " rail-splitter," the " third-rate law- 
yer," and much else and worse. 

Preceding the repeal of the Missouri Compromise I 
gave, at the anniversary of the American and Foreign 
Anti-Slavery Society in New York, the following pic- 
ture of the state of the anti-slavery conflict as it then 
existed : 

" It is evident that there is in this country a purely slavery party, 
a party which exists for no other earthly purpose but to promote the 
interest of slavery. It is known by no particular name, and has 
assumed no definite shape, but its branches reach far and wide in 
church and state. This shapeless and nameless party is not intangi- 
ble in other and more important respects. It has a fixed, definite, 
and comprehensive policy towards the whole free colored population 
of the United States. I understand that policy to comprehend : First, 
the complete suppression of all anti-slavery discussion; second, the 
expulsion of the entire free people of the United States ; third, the 
nationalization of slavery ; fourth, guarantees for the endless perpet- 
uation of slavery and its extension over Mexico and Central America. 
Sir, these objects are forcibly presented to us in the stern logic of 
passing events, and in all the facts that have been before us during 
the last three years. The country has been and is dividing on these 
grand issues. Old party ties are broken. Like is finding its like on 
both sides of these issues, and the great battle is at hand. For the 


present the best representative of tlie slavery party is the Democratic 
party. Its great head for the president is President Pierce, whose 
boast it was before his election, that his whole life had been consistent 
with the interests of slavery — that he is above reproach on that score. 
In his inaugural address he reassures the South on this point, so there 
shall be no misapprehension. Well, the head of the slave power 
being in power, it is natural that the pro-slavery elements should be 
clustered around his admission, and that is rapidly being done. The 
stringent protectionist and the free-trader strike hands. The support- 
ers of Fillmore are becoming the supporters of Pierce. Silver Gray 
Whigs shake hands with Hunker Democrats, the former only differing 
from the latter in name. They are in fact of one heart and one mind, 
and the union is natural and perhaps inevitable. Pilate and Herod 
made friends. The key-stone to the arch of this grand union of 
forces of the slave party is the so-called Compromise of 1850. In that 
measure we have all the objects of our slaveholding policy specified. 
It is, sir, favorable to this view of the situation, that the whig party 
and the democratic party bent lower, sunk deeper, and strained harder 
in their conventions, preparatory to the late presidential election, to 
meet the demands of slavery. Never did parties come before the 
northern people with propositions of such undisguised contempt for 
the moral sentiment and religious ideas of that people. They dared 
to ask them to unite with them in a war upon free speech, upon con- 
science, and to drive the Almighty presence from the councils of the 
nation. Resting their platforms upon the fugitive slave bill, they have 
boldly asked this people for political power to execute its horrible 
and hell-black provisions. The history of that election reveals with 
great clearness the extent to which slavery has "shot its leprous 
distillment " through the life blood of the nation. The party most 
thoroughly opposed to the cause of justice and humanity triumphed, 
while the party only suspected of a leaning toward those principles 
was overwhelmingly defeated, and some say annihilated. But here is 
a still more important fact, and still better discloses the designs of the 
slave power. It is a fact full of meaning, that no sooner did the 
democratic party come into power than a system of legislation was 
presented to all the legislatures of the Northern States designed to put 
those States in harmony with the fugitive slave law, and with the 
malignant spirit evinced by the national government towards the free 
colored inhabitants of the country. The whole movement on the 
part of the States bears unmistakable evidence of having one origin, 
of emanating from one head, and urged forward by one power. It 
was simultaneous, uniform, and general, and looked only to one end. 
It was intended to put thorns under feet already bleeding; to crush a 
people already bowed down ; to enslave a people already but half free ; 


in a word, it was intended and well calculated to discourage, dis- 
hearten, and if possible to drive the whole free colored people out of 
the country. In looking at the black law then recently enacted in the 
State of Illinois one is struck dumb by its enormity. It would seem 
that the men who passed that law had not only successfully banished 
from their minds all sense of justice, but all sense of shame as well ; 
these law codes propose to sell the bodies and souls of the blacks to 
provide the means of intelligence and refinement for the whites ; to 
rob every black stranger who ventures among them to increase their 
educational fund. 

" While this kind of legislation is goJng on in the States, a pro- 
slavery political board of health is being established at Washington. 
Senators Hale, Chase, and Sumner are robbed of their senatorial 
rights and dignity as representatives of sovereign States, because they 
have refused to be inoculated with the pro-slavery virus of the times. 
Among the services that a senator is expected to perform are many 
that can only be done efficiently as members of important committees, 
and the slave power in the Senate, in saying to these honorable sena- 
tors, you shall not serve on the committees of this body, took the re- 
sponsibility of insulting and robbing the States which have sent them 
there. It is an attempt at Washington to decide for the States who 
the States shall send to the Senate. Sir, it strikes me that this aggress- 
ion on the part of the slave power did not meet at the hands of the 
proscribed and insulted senators the rebuke which we had a right to 
expect from them. It seems to me that a great opportunity was lost, 
that the great principle of senatorial equality was left undefended at 
a time when its vindication was sternly demanded. But it is not to 
the purpose of my present statement to criticize the conduct of friends. 
Much should be left to the discretion of anti-slavery men in Con- 
gress. Charges of recreancy should never be made but on the most 
sufficient grounds. For of all places in the world where an anti- 
slavery man needs the confidence and encouragement of his friends, I 
take Washington — the citadel of slavery — to be that place. 

" Let attention now be called to the social influences operating and 
cooperating with the slave power of the time, designed to promote all 
its malign objects. We see here the black man attacked in his most 
vital interests : prejudice and hate are systematically excited against 
him. The wrath of other laborers is stirred up against him. The 
Irish, who, at home, readily sympathize with the oppressed every- 
where, are instantly taught when they step upon our soil to hate and 
despise the negro. They are taught to believe that he eats the bread 
that belongs to them. The cruel lie is told them, that we deprive them 
of labor and receive the money which would otherwise make its way 
into their pockets. Sir, the Irish-American will find out his mistake 


one day. He will find that in assuming our avocation, he has also 
assumed our degradation. But for the present we are the sufferers. 
Our old employments by which we have been accustomed to gain a 
livelihood are gradually slipping from our hands; every hour sees us 
elbowed out of some employment to make room for some newly- 
arrived emigrant from the Emerald Isle, whose hunger and color 
entitle him to special favor. These white men are becoming house- 
servants, cooks, stewards, waiters, and flunkies. For aught I see 
they adjust themselves to their stations with all proper humility. If 
they cannot rise to the dignity of white men, they show that they can 
fall to the degradation of black men. But now, sir, look once more ! 
While the colored people are thus elbowed out of employment ; while 
a ceaseless enmity in the Irish is excited against us ; while State after 
State enact laws against us; while we are being hunted down like 
wild beasts ; while we are oppressed with a sense of increasing inse- 
curity, the American Colonization Society, with hypocrisy written 
on its brow, comes to the front, awakens to new life, and vigorously 
presses its scheme for our expatriation upon the attention of the Amer- 
ican people. Papers have been started in the North and the South to 
promote this long-cherished object — to get rid of the negro, who is 
presumed to be a standing menace to slavery. Each of these papers 
is adapted to the latitude in which it is published, but each and all 
are united in calling upon the government for appropriations to ena- 
ble the Colonization Society to send us out of the country by steam. 
Evidently this society looks upon our extremity as their opportunity, 
and whenever the elements are stirred against us, they are stimulated 
to unusual activity. They do not deplore our misfortunes, but rather 
rejoice in them, since they prove that the two races cannot flourish 
on the same soil. But, sir, I must hasten. I have thus briefly given 
my view of one aspect of the present condition and future prospects 
of the colored people of the United States. And what I have said is 
far from encouraging to my afilicted people. I have seen the cloud 
gather upon the sable brows of some who hear me. I confess the 
case looks bad enough. Sir, I am not a hopeful man. I think I am 
apt to undercalculate the benefits of the future. Yet, sir, in this 
seemingly desperate case, I do not despair for my people. There is a 
bright side to almost every picture, and ours is no exception to the 
general rule. If the influences against us are strong, those for us are 
also strong. To the inquiry, will our enemies prevail in the execu- 
tion of their designs — in my God, and in my soul, I believe they will 
not. Let us look at the first object sought for by the slavery party of 
the country, viz., the suppression of the anti-slavery discussion. 
They desire to suppress discussion on this subject, with a view to the 
peace of the slaveholder and the security of slavery. Now, sir. 


neither the principle nor the subordinate objects, here declared, can 
be at all gained by the slave power, and for this reason : it involves 
the proposition to padlock the lips of the v^^hites, in order to secure 
the fetters on the limbs of the blacks. The right of speech, precious 
and priceless, cannot — will not — be surrendered to slavery. Its sup- 
pression is asked for, as I have said, to give peace and security to 
slaveholders. Sir, that thing cannot be done. God has interposed 
an insuperable obstacle to any such result. ' There can be nx> peace, 
saith my God, to the wicked. ' Suppose it were possible to put down 
this discussion, what would it avail the guilty slaveholder, pillowed 
as he is upon the heaving bosoms of ruined souls? He could not 
have a peaceful spirit. If every anti-slavery tongue in the nation 
were silent — every anti-slavery organization dissolved — every anti- 
slavery periodical, paper, pamphlet, book, or what not, searched out, 
burned to ashes, and their ashes given to the four winds of heaven, 
still, still the slaveholder could have no peace. In every pulsation of 
his heart, in every throb of his life, in every glance of his eye, in the 
breeze that soothes, and in the thunder that startles, would be waked 
up an accuser, whose cause is, ' thou art verily guilty concerning thy 

This is no fancy sketch of the times indicated. The 
situation during all the administration of President Pierce 
was only less threatening and stormy than that under 
the administration of James Buchanan. One sowed, the 
otlier reaped. One was tlie wind, the other was the 
whirlwind. Intoxicated by their success in repealing 
the Missouri compromise — in divesting the native-born 
colored man of American citizenship — in harnessing both 
the Whig and Democratic parties to the car of slavery, 
and in holding continued possession of the national gov- 
ernment, the propagandists of slavery threw off all dis- 
guises, abandoned all semblance of moderation, and very 
naturally and inevitably proceeded, under Mr. Buchanan, 
to avail themselves of all the advantages of their victories. 
Having legislated out of existence the great national 
wall, erected in the better days of the republic, against 
the spread of slavery, and against the increase of its 
power — having blotted out all distinction, as they thought, 
between freedom and slavery in the law, theretofore, gov- 


erning the Territories of the United States, and having 
left the whole question of the legislation or prohibition of 
slavery to be decided by the people of a Territory, the 
next thing in order was to fill up the Territory of Kan- 
sas — ^the one likely to be first organized — with a people 
friendly to slavery, and to keep out all such as were 
opposed to making that Territory a free State. Here 
was an open invitation to a fierce and bitter strife ; and 
the history of the times shows how promptly that invita- 
tion was accepted by both classes to which it was given, 
and the scenes of lawless violence and blood that followed. 
All advantages were at first on the side of those who 
were for making Kansas a slave State. The moral force 
of the repeal of the Missouri compromise was with them ; 
the strength of the triumphant Democratic party was 
with them ; the power and patronage of the federal gov- 
ernment was with them ; the various governors, sent out 
under the Territorial government, were with them ; and, 
above all, the proximity of the Territory to the slave 
State of Missouri favored them and all their designs. 
Those who opposed the making Kansas a slave State, for 
the most part were far away from the battle-ground, 
residing chiefly in New England, more than a thousand 
miles from the eastern border of the Territory, and their 
direct way of entering it was through a country violently 
hostile to them. With such odds against them, and only 
an idea — though a grand one — to support them, it will 
ever be a wonder that they succeeded in making Kansas 
a free State. It is not my purpose to write particularly 
of this or of any other phase of the conflict with slavery, 
but simply to indicate the nature of the struggle, and the 
successive steps leading to the final result. The import- 
ant point to me, as one desiring to see the slave power 
crippled, slavery limited and abolished, was the effect of 
this Kansas battle uDon the moral sentiment of the 


North : how it made abolitionists before they themselves 
became aware of it, and how it rekindled the zeal, stimu- 
lated the activity, and strengthened the faith of our old 
anti-slavery forces. " Draw on me for 11,000 per month 
while the conflict lasts," said the great-hearted Gerrit 
Smith. George L. Stearns poured out his thousands, and 
anti-slavery men of smaller means were proportionally 
liberal. H. W. Beecher shouted the right word at the 
head of a mighty column ; Sumner in the Senate spoke 
as no man had ever spoken there before. Lewis Tappan, 
representing one class of the old opponents of slavery, 
and William L. Garrison the other, lost sight of their 
former difPerences, and bent all their energies to the 
freedom of Kansas. But these and others were merely 
generators of anti-slavery force. The men who went to 
Kansas with the purpose of making it a free State were 
the heroes and martyrs. One of the leaders in this holy 
crusade for freedom, with whom I was brought into near 
relations, was John Brown, whose person, house, and 
purposes I have already described. This brave old man 
and his sons were amongst the first to hear and heed the 
trumpet of freedom calling them to battle. What they 
did and suffered, what they sought and gained, and by 
what means, are matters of history, and need not be 
repeated here. 

When it became evident, as it soon did, that the war 
for and against slavery in Kansas was not to be decided 
by the peaceful means of words and ballots, but that 
swords and bullets were to be employed on both sides. 
Captain John Brown felt that now, after long years of 
waiting, his hour had come, and never did man meet the 
perilous requirements of any occasion more cheerfully, 
courageously, and disinterestedly than he. I met him 
often during this struggle, and saw deeper into his soul 
than when I met him in Springfield seven or eight years 


before, and all I saw of him gave me a more favorable 
impression of the man, and inspired me with a higher 
respect for his character. In his repeated visits to the 
East to obtain necessary arms and supplies, he often did 
me the honor of spending hours and days with me at 
Rochester. On more than one occasion I got up meet- 
ings and solicited aid to be used by him for the cause, 
and I may say without boasting that my efforts in this re- 
spect were not entirely fruitless. Deeply interested as 
" Ossawatomie Brown " was in Kansas, he never lost sight 
of what he called his greater work — the liberation of all 
the slaves in the United States. But for the then present 
he saw his way to the great end through Kansas. It 
would be a grateful task to tell of his exploits in the bor- 
der struggle — how he met persecution with persecution, 
war with war, strategy with strategy, assassination and 
house-burning with signal and terrible retaliation, till 
even the bloodthirsty propagandists of slavery were com- 
pelled to cry for quarter. The horrors wrought by his 
iron hand cannot be contemplated without a shudder, but 
it is the shudder whicli one feels at the execution of 
a murderer. The amputation of a limb is a severe trial 
to feeling, but necessity is a full justification of it to rea- 
son. To call out a murderer at midnight, and without 
note or warning, judge or jury, run him through with a 
sword, was a terrible remedy for a terrible malady. 

The question was not merely which class should prevail 
in Kansas, but whether free-State men should live there 
at all. The border ruffians from Missouri had openly de- 
clared their purpose not only to make Kansas a slave 
State, but that they would make it impossible for free- 
State men to live there. They burned their towns, burned 
their .farm-houses, and by assassination spread terror 
among them, until many of the free-State settlers were 
compelled to escape for their lives. John Brown was 


tlicreforc the logical result of slaveliolding persecutions. 
Until the lives of tyrants and murderers shall become 
more precious in the sight of men than justice and 
liberty, John Brown will need no defender. In dealing 
with the ferocious enemies of the free-State cause in 
Kansas, he not only showed boundless courage but emi- 
nent military skill. With men so few, and odds against 
him so great, few captains ever surpassed him in achieve- 
ments, some of which seem too disproportionate for belief, 
and yet no voice has yet called them in question. With 
only eight men he met, fought, whipped, and captured 
Henry Clay Pate with twenty-five well-armed and well- 
mounted men. In this battle he selected his ground 
so wisely, handled his men so skillfully, and attacked his 
enemies so vigorously, that they could neither run nor 
fight, and were therefore compelled to surrender to a 
force less than one-third their own. With just thirty men 
on another memorable occasion he met and vanquished 
400 Missourians under the command of General Read. 
These men had come into the territory under an oath 
never to return to their homes in Missouri till they had 
stamped out the last vestige of the free-State spirit in 
Kansas. But a brush with old Brown instantly took this 
high conceit out of them, and they were glad to get home 
upon any terms, without stopping to stipulate. With less 
than 100 men to defend the town of Lawrence, he offered 
to lead them and give battle to 1,400 men on the banks 
of the Waukerusia river, and was much vexed when 
his offer was refused by General Jim Lane and others, to 
whom the defense of the place was committed. Before 
leaving Kansas he w^ent into the border of Missouri and 
liberated a dozen slaves in a single night, and despite of 
slave laws and marshals he brought these people through 
half a dozen States and landed them safe in Canada. The 
successful efforts of the North in making Kansas a free 


State, despite all the sophistical doctrines and sanguinary 
measures of the South to make it a slave State, exercised 
a potent influence upon subsequent political forces and 
events in the then-near future. 

It is interesting to note the facility with wliich the 
statesmanship of a section of the country adapted its con- 
victions to changed conditions. When it was found that 
the doctrine of popular sovereignty (first, I think, invent- 
ed by General Cass and afterward adopted by Stephen A. 
Douglas) failed to make Kansas a slave State, and could 
not be safely trusted in other emergencies, Southern 
statesmen promptly abandoned and reprobated that doc- 
trine, and took what they considered firmer ground. 
They lost faith in the rights, powers, and wisdom of the 
people and took refuge in the Constitution. Henceforth 
the favorite doctrine of the South was that the people of 
a territory had no voice in the matter of slavery what- 
ever ; that the Constitution of the United States, of its 
own force and effect, carried slavery safely into any terri- 
tory of the United States and protected the system there 
until it ceased to be a territory and became a State. The 
practical operation of this doctrine would be to make all 
the future new States slaveholding States, for slavery 
once planted and nursed for years in a territory would 
easily strengthen itself against the evil day and defy erad- 
ication. This doctrine was in some sense supported 
by Chief -Justice Taney in the infamous Dred Scott de- 
cision. This new ground, however, was destined to 
bring misfortune to its inventors, for it divided for a time 
the Democratic party, one faction of it going with John 
C. Breckenridge and the other espousing the cause of 
Stephen A. Douglas ; the one held firmly to the doctrine 
that the United States Constitution, without any legisla- 
tion, territorial, national, or otherwise, by its own force 
and effect, carried slavery into all the territories of the 

374 harper's ferry. 

United States ; the other held that the people of a terri- 
tory had the right to admit slavery or reject slavery, as 
in their judgment they might deem best. 

Now, while this war of words — this conflict of doctrines 
— was in progress, the portentous shadow of a stupendous 
civil war became more and more visible. Bitter com- 
plaints were raised by the slaveholders that they were 
about to be despoiled of their proper share in territory 
won by a common valor or bought by a common treasure. 
The North, on the other hand, or rather a large and 
growing party at the North, insisted that the complaint 
was luireasonable and groundless ; that nothing properly 
considered as property was excluded or intended to 
be excluded from the territories ; that Southern men 
could settle in any territory of the United States with 
some kinds of property, and on the same footing and with 
the same protection as citizens of the North ; that men 
and women are not property in the same sense as houses, 
lands, horses, sheep, and swine are property ; and that 
the fathers of the Republic neither intended the exten- 
sion nor the perpetuity of slavery ; that liberty is 
national and slavery is sectional. From 1856 to 1860 
the whole land rocked with this great controversy. When 
the explosive force of this controversy had already weak- 
ened the bolts of the American Union ; when the agita- 
tion of the public mind was at its topmost height ; when 
the two sections were at their extreme points of differ- 
ence ; when, comprehending the perilous situation, such 
statesmen of the North as William H. Seward sought to 
allay the rising storm by soft, persuasive speech, and 
when all hope of compromise had nearly vanished, as if 
to banish even the last glimmer of hope for peace between 
the sections John Brown came upon the scene. On the 
night of the 16th of October, 1859, there appeared near 
the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers a . 



party of nineteen men — ^fourteen white and five colored. 
Tliey were not only armed themselves, but they brought 
with them a large supply of arms for such persons as 
might join them. These men invaded the town of Har- 
per's Ferry, disarmed the watchman, took possession of 
the arsenal, rifle factory, armory, and other government 
property at that place, arrested and made prisoners 
of nearly all the prominent citizens in the neighborhood, 
collected about fifty slaves, put bayonets into the hands 
of such as were able and willing to fight for their liberty, 
killed three men, proclaimed general emancipation, held 
the ground more than thirty hours, were subsequently 
overpowered and nearly all killed, wounded, or captured 
by a body of United States troops under command of Col. 
Eobert E. Lee, since famous as the rebel General Lee. 
Three out of the nineteen invaders were captured while 
fighting, and one of them was Capt. John Brown, the man 
who originated, planned, and commanded the expedition. 
At the time of his capture Capt. Brown was supposed to 
be mortally wounded, as he had several ugly gashes and 
bayonet wounds on his head and body, and apprehend- 
ing that he might speedily die, or that he might be res- 
cued by his friends, and thus the opportunity to make him 
a signal example of slaveholding vengeance would be lost, 
his captors hurried him to Charlestown, 10 miles further 
within the border of Virginia, placed him in prison 
strongly guarded by troops, and before his wounds were 
healed he was brought into court, subjected to a nominal 
trial, convicted of high treason and inciting slaves to 
insurrection, and was executed. 

His corpse was given up to his woe-stricken widow, and 
she, assisted by anti-slavery friends, caused it to be borne 
to North Elba, Essex county, N. Y., and there his dust 
now reposes amid the silent, solemn, and snowy grandeurs 
of the Adirondacks. This raid upon Harper's Ferry was 


as the last straw to the camel's back. What in the tone 
of Southern sentiment had been fierce before, became fu- 
rious and uncontrollable now. A scream for vengeance 
came up from all sections of the slave States and from 
great multitudes in the North. All who were supposed 
to liave been any way connected with John Brown were 
be to hunted down and surrendered to the tender mercies of 
slaveholding and panic-stricken Virginia, and there to be 
tried after the fashion of John Brown's trial, and of 
course to be summarily executed. 

On the evening when the news came that John Brown 
had taken and was then holding the town of Harper's 
Ferry, it so happened that I was speaking to a large audi- 
ence in National Hall, Philadelphia. The announcement 
came upon us with the startling effect of an earthquake. 
It was something to make the boldest hold his breath. I 
saw at once that my old friend had attempted what he 
had long ago resolved to do, and I felt certain that the 
result must be his capture and destruction. As I ex- 
pected, the next day brought the news that with two or 
three men he had fortified and was holding a small engine- 
house, but that he was surrounded by a body of Virginia 
militia, who thus far had not ventured to capture the insur- 
gents, but that escape was impossible. A few hours later 
and word came that Colonel Robert E. Lee Avith a com- 
pany of United States troops had made a breach in Capt. 
Brown's fort, and had captured him alive, though mortally 
wounded. His carpet-bag had been secured by Governor 
Wise, and it was found to contain numerous letters and 
documents which directly implicated Gerritt Smith, Joshua 
E. Giddings, Samuel G. Howe, Frank P. Sanborn, and 
myself. This intelligence was soon followed by a telegram 
saying that we were all to be arrested. Knowing that I was 
then in Philadelphia, stopping with my friend Thomas J. 
Dorsey, Mr. John Hern, the telegraph operator, came to 


me and with others uro;ed me to leave the city by the first 
train, as it was known through the newspapers that I was 
then in Philadelphia, and officers might even then be on 
my track. To me there was nothing improbable in all 
this. My friends for the most part were appalled at the 
thought of my being arrested then or there, or while on 
my way across the ferry from Walnut street wharf to 
Camden, for there was where I felt sure the arrest would 
be made, and asked some of them to go so far as this with 
me merely to see what might occur, but upon one ground 
or another they all thought it best not to be found in my 
company at such a time, except dear old Franklin Turner 
— a true man. The truth is, that in the excitement which 
prevailed my friends had reason to fear that the very fact 
that they were with me would be a sufficient reason for 
their arrest with me. The delay in the departure of the 
steamer seemed unusually long to me, for I confess I was 
seized with a desire to reach a more northern latitude. 
My friend Frank did not leave my side till " all ashore " 
was ordered and the paddles began to move. I reached 
New York at night, still under tlie apprehension of arrest 
at any moment, but no signs of such an event being made, 
I went at once to the Barclay street ferry, took the boat 
across the river, and went direct to Washington street, 
Hoboken, the home of Mrs. Marks, where I spent the 
night, and I may add without undue profession of timidity, 
an anxious night. The morning papers brought no relief, 
for they announced that the government would spare no 
pains in ferreting out and bringing to punishment all 
who were connected with the Harper's Ferry outrage, and 
that papers as well as persons would be searched for. I 
was now somewhat uneasy, from the fact that sundry let- 
ters and a constitution written by John Brown were 
locked up in my desk in Rochester. In order to prevent 
these papers from falling into the hands of the government 


of Virginia, I got my friend, Miss Ottilia Assing, to write 
at my dictation the following telegram to B. F. Blackall, 
the telegraph operator in Rochester, a friend and frequent 
visitor at my house, who would readily understand the 
meaning of the dispatch : 

**B. F. Blackall, Esq.: 

" Tell Lewis (my oldest son) to secure all the important papers in 
my high desk." 

I did not sign my name, and the result showed that I 
had rightly judged that Mr. Blackall would understand 
and promptly attend to the request. The mark of the 
chisel with which the desk was opened is still on the 
drawer, and is one of the traces of the John Brown raid. 
Having taken measures to secure my papers, the trouble 
was to know just what to do with myself. To stay in 
Hoboken was out of the question, and to go to Rochester 
was to all appearance to go into the hands of the hunters, 
for they would naturally seek me at my home if they 
sought me at all. I, however, resolved to go home and 
risk my safety there. I felt sure that once in the city I 
could not be easily taken from there without a preliminary 
hearing upon the requisition, and not then if the people 
could be made aware of what was in progress. But how 
to get to Rochester was a serious question. It would not 
do to go to New York city and take the train, for that city 
was not less incensed against John Brown conspirators 
than many parts of the South. The course hit upon by 
my friends, Mr. Johnston and Miss Assing, was to take 
me at night in a private conveyance from Hoboken to 
Paterson, where I could take the Erie railroad for home. 
This plan was carried out, and I reached home in safety, 
but had been there but a few moments when I was called 
upon by Samuel D. Porter, Esq., and my neighbor, Lieu- 
tenant-Governor Selden, who informed me that the gov- 
ernor of the State would certainly surrender me on a 


proper requisition from the governor of Virginia, and that 
while the people of Rochester would not permit me to be 
taken South, yet, in order to avoid collision with the gov- 
ernment and consequent bloodshed, they advised me to 
quit the country, which I did — going to Canada. Gov- 
ernor Wise, in the meantime, being advised that I had left 
Rochester for the State of Michigan, made requisition on 
the governor of that State for my surrender to Virginia. 
The following letter from Governor Wise to President 
James Buchanan (which since the war was sent me by 
B. F. Lossing, the historian), will show by what means 
the governor of Virginia meant to get me in his power, 
and that my apprehensions of arrest were not altogether 

groundless : 


Richmond, Va., Nov. 13, 1859, 
To His Excellency James Buchanan, President of the United States, and 
to the Honorable Postmaster- General of the United States : 
Gentlemen — I have information such as has caused me, upon 
proper affidavits, to make requisition upon the Executive of Michigan 
for the delivery up of the person of Frederick Douglass, a negro man, 
supposed now to be in Michigan, charged with murder, robbery, and 
inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia. My agents for 
the arrest and reclamation of the person so charged are Benjamin M. 
Morris and William N. Kelly. The latter has the requisition, and 
will wait on you to the end of obtaining nominal authority as post- 
office agents. They need be very secretive in this matter, and some 
pretext for traveling through the dangerous section for the execution 
of the laws in this behalf, and some protection against obtrusive, un- 
ruly, or lawless violence. If it be proper so to do, will the postmas- 
ter-general be pleased to give to Mr. Kelly, for each of these men, a 
permit and authority to act as detectives for the post-office depart- 
ment, without pay, but to pass and repass without question, delay, or 

Respectfully submitted by your obedient servant, 

Henry A. Wise. 

There is no reason to doubt that James Buchanan af- 
forded Governor Wise all the aid and cooperation for 
which he was asked. I have been informed that several 


United States marshals were in Rochester in search of 
me within six hours after my departure. I do not know 
that I can do better at this stage of my story tlian to in- 
sert the following letter, written by me to the Rochester 
Democrat and American : 

Canada West, Oct. 31, 1859. 
Mr. Editor : 

I notice that the telegraph makes Mr. Cook (one of the unfortunate 
insurgents at Harper's Ferry, and now a prisoner in the hands of the 
thing calling itself the Government of Virginia, but which in fact is 
but an organized conspiracy by one part of the people against another 
and weaker) denounce me as a coward, and assert that I promised to 
be present in person at the Harper's Ferry insurrection. This is cer- 
tainly a very grave impeachment, whether viewed in its bearings upon 
friends or upon foes, and you will not think it strange that I should 
take a somewhat serious notice of it. Having no acquaintance what- 
ever with Mr. Cook, and never having exchanged a word with him 
about the Harper's Ferry insurrection, I am disposed to doubt if he 
could have used the language concerning me which the wires attribute 
to him. The lightning, when speaking for itself, is among the most 
direct, reliable, and truthful of things; but when speaking of the 
terror-stricken slaveholders at Harper's Ferry, it has been made the 
swiftest of liars. Under its nimble and trembling fingers it magnifies 
17 men into 700, and has since filled the columns of the New York 
Herald for days with its interminable contradictions. But assuming 
that it has told only the simple truth as to the sayings of Mr. Cook in 
this instance, I have this answer to make to my accuser: Mr. Cook 
may be perfectly right in denouncing me as a coward; I have not one 
word to say in defense or vindication of my character for courage ; I 
have always been more distinguished for running than fighting, and, 
tried by the Harper's-Ferry-insurrection-test, I am most miserably 
deficient in courage, even more so than Cook when he deserted his 
brave old captain and fled to the mountains. To this extent Mr. Cook 
is entirely right, and will meet no contradiction from me, or from any- 
body else. But wholly, grievously, and most unaccountably wrong is 
Mr. Cook when he asserts that I promised to be present in person at 
the Harper's Ferry insurrection. Of whatever other imprudence and 
indiscretion I may have been guilty, I have never made a promise so 
rash and wild as this. The taking of Harper's Ferry was a measure 
never encouraged by my word or by my vote. At any time or place, 
miy wisdom or my cowardice has not only kept me from Harper's 
Ferry, but has equally kept me from making any promise to go there. 
I desire to be quite emphatic here, for of all guilty men, he is the 

JOHN brown's GHOST^ 381 

guiltiest who lures his fellow-men to an undertaking of this sort, under 
promise of assistance which he afterwards fails to render. I therefore 
declare that there is no man living, and no man dead, who, if living, 
could truthfully say that I ever promised him, or anybody else, either 
conditionally, or otherwise, that I would be present in person at the 
Harper's Ferry insurrection. My field of labor for the abolition of 
slavery has not extended to an attack upon the United States arsenal. 
In the teeth of the documents already published and of those which 
may hereafter be published, I affirm that no man connected with that 
insurrection, from its noble and heroic leader down, can connect my 
name with a single broken promise of any sort whatever. So much I 
deem it proper to say negatively. The time for a full statement of 
what I know and of all I know of this desperate but sublimely dis- 
interested effort to emancipate the slaves of Maryland and Virginia 
from their cruel task-masters, has not yet come, and may never come. 
In the denial which I have now made, my motive is more a respectful 
consideration for the opinions of the slaves' friends than from my 
fear of being made an accomplice in the general conspiracy against 
slavery, when there is a reasonable hope for success. Men who live 
by robbing their fellow-men of their labor and liberty have forfeited 
their right to know anything of the thoughts, feelings, or purposes of 
those whom they rob and plunder. They have by the single act of 
slaveholding voluntarily placed themselves beyond the laws of justice 
and honor, and have become only fitted for companionship with 
thieves and pirates — the common enemies of God and of all mankind. 
While it shall be considered right to protect one's self against thieves, 
burglars, robbery, and assassins, and to slay a wild beast in the act of 
devouring his human prey, it can never be wrong for the imbruted 
and whip-scarred slaves, or their friends, to hunt, harass, and even 
strike down the traffickers in human flesh. If anybody is disposed to 
think less of me on account of this sentiment, or because I may have 
•had a knowledge of what was about to occur, and did not assume the 
base and detestable character of an informer, he is a man whose good 
or bad opinion of me may be equally repugnant and despicable. 

Entertaining these sentiments, I may be asked why I did not join 
John Brown— the noble old hero whose one right hand had shaken the 
foundation of the American Union, and whose ghost will haunt the 
bed-chambers of all the born and unborn slaveholders of Virginia 
through all their generations, filling them with alarm and conster- 
nation. My answer to this has already been given; at least impliedly 
given — "The tools to those who can use them!" Let every man 
work for the abolition of slavery in his own way. I would help all 
and hinder none. My position in regard to the Harper's Ferry insur- 
rection may be easily inferred from these remarks, and I shall be glad 


if those p.apers which have spoken of me in connection with it would 
find room for this brief statement. I have no apology for keeping out 
of the way of those gentlemanly United States marshals, who are said 
to have paid Rochester a somewhat protracted visit lately, with a view 
to an interview with me. A government recognizing the validity of 
the Dred Scott decision at such a time as this, is not likely to have any 
very charitable feelings towards me, and if I am to meet its repre- 
sentatives I prefer to do so at least upon equal terms. If I have com- 
mitted any offense against society I have done so on the soil of the 
State of New York, and I should be perfectly willing to be arraigned 
there before an impartial jury ; but I have quite insuperable objections 
to being caught by the hounds of Mr. Buchanan, and "bagged" by 
Gov. Wise. For this appears to be the arrangement. Buchanan does 
the fighting and hunting, and Wise " 6a^8 " the game. Some reflec- 
tions may be made upon my leaving on a tour to England just at this 
time. I have only to say that my going to that country has been 
rather delayed than hastened by the insurrection at Harper's Ferry. 
All know that I had intended to leave here in the first week of 


Frederick Douglass. 


My connection with John Brown — To and from England — Presidential 
contest — Election of Abraham Lincoln. 

WHAT was my connection with John Brown, and 
what I knew of his scheme for the capture of 
Harper's Ferry, I may now proceed to state. From the 
time of my visit to him in Springfield, Mass., in 1847, 
our relations were friendly and confidential. I never 
passed through Springfield without calling on him, and 
he never came to Rochester without calling on me. He 
often stopped over night with me, when we talked over 
the feasibility of his plan for destroying the value of slave 
property, and the motive for holding slaves in the border 
States. That plan, as already intimated elsewhere, was 
to take twenty or twenty-five discreet and trustworthy 
men into the mountains of Virginia and Maryland, and 
station them in squads of fiv^e, about five miles apart, on 
a line of twenty-five miles ; each squad to co-operate with 
all, and all with each. They were to have selected for 
them secure and comfortable retreats in the fastnesses of 
the mountains, where they could easily defend tliemselves 
in case of attack. They were to subsist upon the country 
roundabout. They were to be well armed, but were to 
avoid battle or violence, unless compelled by pursuit or 
in self-defence. In that case, they were to make it as 
costly as possible to the assailing party, whether that 
party should be soldiers or citizens. He further proposed 
to have a number of stations from the line of Pennsyl- 




vaiiia to the Canada border, where such slaves as he 
might, through his men, induce to run away, should be 
supplied with food and shelter and be forwarded from one 
station to another till they should reach a place of safety 
either in Canada or the Northern States. He proposed 
to add to his force in the mountains any courageous and 
intelligent fugitives who might be willing to remain and 
endure the hardships and brave the dangers of this 
mountain life. These, he thought, if properly selected, 
on account of their knowledge of the surrounding country, 
could be made valuable auxiliaries. The work of going 
into the valley of Virginia and persuading the slaves to 
flee to the mountains was to be committed to the most 
courageous and judicious man connected with each squad. 

Hating slavery as I did, and making its abolition the 
object of my life, I was ready to welcome any new mode 
of attack upon the slave system which gave any promise 
of success. I readily saw that this plan could be made 
very effective in rendering slave property in Maryland 
and Virginia valueless by rendering it insecure. Men do 
not like to buy runaway horses, nor to invest their money 
in a species of property likely to take legs and walk off 
with itself. In the worse case, too, if the plan should 
fail, and John Brown should be driven from the mount- 
ains, a new fact would be developed by which the nation 
would be kept awake to the existence of slavery. Hence, 
I assented to this, John Brown's scheme or plan for run- 
ning off slaves. 

To set this plan in operation, money and men, arms 
and ammunition, food and clothing, were needed ; and 
these, from the nature of the enterprise, were not easily 
obtained, and nothing was immediately done. Captain 
Brown, too, notwithstanding his rigid economy, was poor, 
and was unable to arm and equip men for the dangerous 
life he had mapped out. So the work lingered till after 

BROWN AT author's HOUSE. 385 

the Kansas trouble was over, and freedom was a fact 
accomplished in that Territory. This left him with arms 
and men, for the men who had been with him in Kansas 
believed in him, and would follow him in any humane 
though dangerous enterprise he miglit undertake. 

After the close of his Kansas work, Captain Brown 
came to my house in Rochester, and said he desired to 
stop with me several weeks ; " but," he added, " I will 
not stay unless you will allow me to pay board." Know- 
ing that he was no trifler and meant all lie said, and 
desirous of retaining him under my roof, I charged three 
dollars a week. While here, he spent most of his time 
in correspondence. He wrote often to George L. Stearns 
of Boston, Gerritt Smith of Peterboro, N. Y., and many 
others, and received many letters in return. When he 
was not writing letters, he was writing and revising a 
constitution which he meant to put in operation by the 
men who should go with him in the mountains. He said 
that, to avoid anarchy and confusion, tliere should be a 
regularl}^- constituted government, which each man who 
came with him should be sworn to honor and support. I 
have a copy of this constitution in Captain Brown's own 
handwriting, as prepared by himself at my house. 

He called his friends from Chatham (Canada) to come 
together, that he might lay his constitution before them 
for their approval and adoption. His whole time and 
thought were given to this subject. It was the first thing 
in the morning and the last thing at night, till I confess 
it began to be something of a bore to me. Once in a 
while he would say he could, with a few resolute men, 
capture Harper's Ferry, and supply himself with arms 
belonging to the government at that place ; but he never 
announced his intention to do so. It was, however, very 
evidently passing in his mind as a thing he might do. I 
paid but little attention to such remarks, though I never 


doubted tliat he thought just what he said. Soon after 
his coming to me, he asked me to get for him two 
smoothly-planed boards, upon which he could illustrate, 
with a pair of dividers, by a drawing, the plan of fortifi- 
cation which he meant to adopt in the mountains. 

These forts were to be so arranged as to connect one 
with the other, by secret passages, so that if one was 
carried another could easily be fallen back upon, and be 
the means of dealing death to the enemy at the very 
moment when he might think himself victorious. I was 
less interested in these drawings than my children were, 
but they showed that the old man had an eye to the 
means as well as to the end, and was giving his best 
thought to the work he was about to take in hand. 

It was his intention to begin this work in '58 instead 
of '59. Why he did not will appear from the following 

While in Kansas, he made the acquaintance of one 
Colonel Forbes, an Englishman, who had figured some- 
what in revolutionary movements in Europe, and, as it 
turned out, had become an adventurer — a soldier of for- 
tune in this country. This Forbes professed to be an 
expert in military matters, and easily fastened upon John 
Brown, and, becoming master of his scheme of liberation, 
professed great interest in it, and offered his services to 
him in the preparation of his men for the work before 
them. After remaining with Brown a short time, he 
came to me in Rochester, with a letter from him, asking 
me to receive and assist him. I was not favorably 
impressed with Colonel Forbes at first, but I " conquered 
my prejudice," took him to a hotel and paid his board 
while he remained. Just before leaving, he spoke of his 
family in Europe as in destitute circumstances, and of his 
desire to send them some money. I gave him a little — I 
forget how much — and through Miss Assing, a German 


lady, deeply interested in the John Brown scheme, he 
was introduced to several of my German friends in New 
York. But he soon wore them out by his endless beg- 
ging ; and when he could make no more money by pro- 
fessing to advance the John Brown project he threatened 
to expose it, and all connected with it. I think I was the 
first to be informed of his tactics, and I promptly com- 
municated them to Captain Brown. Through my friend 
Miss Assing, I found that Forbes had told of Brown's 
designs to Horace Greeley, and to the government officials 
at Washington, of which I informed Captain Brown, and 
this led to the postponement of the enterprise another 
year. It was hoped that by this delay the story of Forbes 
would be discredited, and this calculation was correct, 
for nobody believed the scoundrel, though in this he told 
the truth. 

While at my house, John Brown made the acquaintance 
of a colored man who called himself by different names — 
sometimes " Emperor," at other times, " Shields Green." 
He was a fugitive slave, who had made his escape from 
Charleston, South Carolina ; a State from which a slave 
found it no easy matter to run away. But Shields Green 
was not one to shrink from hardships or dangers. He 
was a man of few words, and his speech was singularly 
broken ; but his courage and self-respect made him quite 
a dignified character. John Brown saw at once what 
''stuff" Green "was made of," and confided to him his 
plans and purposes. Green easily believed in Brown, 
and promised to go with him whenever he should be 
ready to move. About three weeks before the raid on 
Harper's Ferry, John Brown wrote to me, informing me 
that a beginning in his work would soon be made, and 
that before going forward he wanted to see me, and 
appointed an old stone-quarry near Chambersburg, Penn., 
as our place of meeting. Mr. Kagi, his secretary, would 


be there, and they wislied me to bring any money I could 
command, and Shields Green along with me. In the 
same letter, he said that his " mining tools " and stores 
were then at Chambersburg, and that he would be there 
to remove them. I obeyed the old man's summons. 
Taking Shields, we passed thit)ugh New York city, where 
we called upon Rev. James Glocester and his wife, and 
told them where and for what we were going, and that 
our old friend needed money. Mrs. Glocester gave me 
ten dollars, and asked me to hand the same to John 
Brown, with her best wishes. 

When I reached Chambersburg, a good deal of surprise 
was expressed (for I was instantly recognized) that I 
should come there unannounced, and I was pressed to 
make a speech to them, with which invitation I readily 
complied. Meanwhile, I called upon Mr. Henry Watson, 
a simple-minded and warm-hearted man, to whom Capt. 
Brown had imparted the secret of my visit, to show me 
the road to the appointed rendezvous. Watson was very 
busy in his barber's shop, but he dropped all and put me 
on the right track. I approached the old quarry very 
cautiously, for John Brown was generally well armed, and 
regarded strangers with suspicion. He was then under 
the ban of the government, and heavy rewards were of- 
fered for his arrest, for offenses said to have been com- 
mitted in Kansas. He was passing under the name of 
John Smith. As I came near, he regarded me rather 
suspiciously, but soon recognized me, and received me 
cordially. He had in his hand when I met him a fishing- 
tackle, wdth which he had apparently been fishing in a 
stream hard by ; but I saw no fish, and did not suppose 
that he cared much for his " fisherman's luck." The 
fishing was simply a disguise, and was certainly a good 
one. He looked every way like a man of the neighbor- 
hood, and as much at home as any of the farmers arotmd 


there. His liat was old and storm-beaten, and his cloth- 
ing was about the color of the stone-quarry itself — his 
then present dwelling-place. 

His face wore an anxious expression, and he was much 
worn by thought and exposure. I felt that I was on a 
dangerous mission, and was as little desirous of discov- 
ery as himself, though no reward had been offered for 

We — Mr. Kagi, Captain Brown, Shields Green, and 
myself — sat down among the rocks and talked over the 
enterprise which was about to be undertaken. The taking 
of Harper's Ferry, of which Captain Brown had merely 
hinted before, was now declared as his settled purpose, 
and he wanted to know what I thought of it. I at once 
opposed the measure with all the arguments at my com- 
mand. To me such a measure would be fatal to running 
off slaves (as was the original plan), and fatal to all en- 
gaged in doing so.^ It would be an attack upon the 
federal government, and would array the whole country 
against us. Captain Brown did most of the talking on 
the other side of the question. He did not at all object 
to rousing the nation ; it seemed to him that something 
startling was just what the nation needed. He had com- 
pletely renounced his old plan, and thought that the cap- 
ture of Harper's Ferry would serve as notice to the slaves 
that their friends had come, and as a trumpet to rally 
them to his standard. He described the place as to its 
means of defense, and how impossible it would be to dis- 
lodge him if once in possession. Of course I was no 
match for him in such matters, but I told him, and these 
were my words, that all his arguments, and all his 
descriptions of the place, convinced me that he was going 
into a perfect steel-trap, and that once in he would never 
get out alive ; that he would be surrounded at once and 
escape would be impossible. He was not to be shaken by 


anything I could say, but treated my views respectfully, 
replying that even if surrounded he would find means for 
cutting his way out ; but that would not be forced upon 
him ; he should have a number of the best citizens of the 
neighborhood as his prisoners at the start, and that hold- 
ing them as hostages he should be able, if worse came to 
worse, to dictate terms of egress from the town. I looked 
at him with some astonishment, that he could rest upon 
a reed so weak and broken, and told him that Virginia 
would blow liim and his hostages sky-high, rather than 
that he should hold Harper's Ferry an hour. Our talk 
was long and earnest ; we spent the most of Saturday and 
a part of Sunday in this debate — Brown for Harper's Fer- 
ry, and I against it ; he for striking a blow which should 
instantly rouse the country, and I for the policy of grad- 
ually and unaccountably drawing off the slaves to the 
mountains, as at first suggested and proposed by him. 
When I found that he had fully made up his mind and 
could not be dissuaded, I turned to Shields Green and told 
him he heard what Captain Brown had said ; his old plan 
was changed, and that I should return home, and if he 
wished to go with me he could do so. Captain Brown 
urged us both to go with him, but I could not do so, and 
could but feel that he was about to rivet the fetters more 
firmly than ever on the limbs of the enslaved. In parting 
he put his arms around me in a manner more than friend- 
ly, and said : " Come with me, Douglass ; I will defend 
you with my life. I want you for a special purpose. 
When I strike, the bees will begin to swarm, and I shall 
want you to help hive them." But my discretion or my 
cowardice made me proof against the dear old man's 
eloquence — perhaps it was something of both which de- 
termined my course. AVhen about to leave I asked Green 
what he had decided to do, and was surprised by his 
coolly saying, in his broken way, "- 1 b'leve I'll go wid de 


ole man." Here we separated ; they to go to Harper's 
Ferry, I to Rochester. There has been ^some difference of 
opinion as to the propriety of my course in thus leaving my 
friend. Some have thought that I ought to have gone 
with him ; but I have no reproaches for myself at this 
point, and since I have been assailed only by colored men 
who kept even farther from this brave and heroic man 
than I did, I shall not trouble myself much about their 
criticisms. They compliment me in assuming that I 
should perform greater deeds than themselves. 

Such then was my connection with John Brown, and it 
may be asked, if this is all, why I should have objected to 
being sent to Virginia to be tried for the offense charged. 
The explanation is not difficult. I knew, if my enemies 
could not prove me guilty of the offense of being with 
John Brown,they could prove that I was Frederick Doug- 
lass ; they could prove that I was in correspondence and 
conspiracy with Brown against slavery ; they could prove 
that I brought Shields Green, one of the bravest of his 
soldiers, all the way from Rochester to him at Chambers- 
burg ; they could prove that I brought money to aid him, 
and in what was then the state of the public mind I could 
not hope to make a jury of Virginia believe I did not go 
the whole length he went, or that I was not one of his 
supporters ; and I knew that all Virginia, were I once in 
her clutches, would say " Let him be hanged.'' Before I 
had left Canada for England, Jeremiah Anderson, one of 
Brown's men, who was present and took part in the raid, 
but escaped by the mountains, joined me, and he told me 
that he and Shields Green were sent out on special duty 
as soon as the capture of the arsenal, etc., was effected. 
Their business was to bring in the slaves from the sur- 
rounding country, and hence they were on the outside 
when Brown was surrounded. I said to him, " Why then 
did not Shields come with you ? " " Well," he said, " I 


told him to come ; that we could do nothing more, but he 
simply said he must go down to de ole man." Anderson 
further told me that Captain Brown was careful to keep 
his plans from his men, and that there was much opposi- 
tion among them when they found what were the precise 
movements determined upon ; but they were an oath- 
bound company, and like good soldiers were agreed to 
follow their captain wlierever he might lead. 

On the 12th of November, 1859, I took passage from 
Quebec on board the steamer Scotia, Captain Thompson, 
of the Allan line. My going to England was not at first 
suggested by my connection with John Brown, but the 
fact that I was now in danger of arrest on the ground of 
complicity with him made what I had intended a pleasure 
a necessity, for though in Canada, and under British law, 
it was not impossible that I might be kidnapped and 
taken to Virginia. England had given me shelter and 
protection when the slave-hounds were on my track four- 
teen years before, and her gates were still open to me now 
that I was pursued in the name of Virginia justice. I 
could but feel that I was going into exile, perhaps for 
life. Slavery seemed to be at the very top of its power ; 
the national government, with all its powers and appli- 
ances, was in its hands, and it bade fair to wield them for 
many years to come. Nobody could then see that in the 
short space of four years this power would be broken and 
the slave system destroyed. So I started on my voyage 
with feelings far from cheerful. No one who has not 
himself been compelled to leave his home and country 
and go into permanent banishment can well imagine the 
state of mind and heart which such a condition brings. 
The voyage out was by the north passage, and at this 
season, as usual, it was cold, dark, and stormy. Before 
quitting the coast of Labrador we had four degrees below 
zero. Although I had crossed the Atlantic twice before, 


I had not experienced sucli unfriendly weather as during 
the most of this voyage. Our great jship was dashed 
about upon the surface of the sea as though she had been 
the smallest " dug-out." It seemed to tax all the seaman- 
ship of our captain to keep her in manageable condition ; 
but after battling with the waves on an angry ocean dur- 
ing fourteen long days I gratefully found myself upon the. 
soil of Great Britain, beyond the reach of Buchanan's 
power and Virginia's prisons. Upon reaching Liverpool 
I learned that England was nearly as much alive to what 
had happened at Harper's Ferry as the United States, and 
I was immediately called upon in different parts of 
the country to speak on the subject of slavery, and espe- 
cially to give some account of the men who had thus flung 
away their lives in a desperate attempt to free the slaves. 
My own relation to the affair was a subject of much inter- 
est, as was the fact of my presence there being in some 
sense to elude the demands of Governor Wise, who, hav- 
ing learned that I was not in Michigan, but was on a 
British steamer bound for England, publicly declared that 
" could he overtake that vessel he would take me from her 
deck at any cost." 

While in England, and wishing to visit France, I wrote 
to Mr. George M. Dallas, the American minister at the 
British court, to obtain a passport. The attempt upon 
the life of Napoleon III about that time, and the suspi- 
cion that the conspiracy against him had been hatched in 
England, made the French government very strict in the 
enforcement of its passport system. I might possibly 
have been permitted to visit that country without a cer- 
tificate of my citizenship, but wishing to leave nothing to 
chance, I applied to the only competent authority ; but, 
true to the traditions of the Democratic party, true to the 
slaveholding policy of his country, true to the decision of 
the United States Supreme Court, and true, perhaps, 


to the petty meanness of his own nature, Mr. George M. 
Dallas, the Democratic American minister, refused to 
grant me a passport, on the ground that I was not a citi- 
zen of the United States. I did not beg or remonstrate 
with this dignitary further, but simply addressed a note 
to the French minister in London asking for a permit to 
visit France, and that paper came without delay. I mention 
this not to belittle the civilization of my native country, 
but as a part of the story of my life. I could have borne 
this denial with more serenity could I have foreseen what 
has since happened, but under the circumstances it was a 
galling disappointment. 

I had at this time been about six months out of the 
United States. My time had been chiefly occupied in 
speaking on slavery and other subjects in different parts 
of England and Scotland, meeting and enjoying the while 
the society of many of the kind friends whose acquaint- 
ance I had made during my visit to those countries four- 
teen years before. Much of the excitement caused by the 
Harper's Ferry insurrection had subsided, both at home 
and abroad, and I should have now gratified a long- 
cherished desire to visit France, and availed myself for 
that purpose of the permit so promptly and civilly given 
by the French minister, had not news reached me from 
home of the death of my beloved daughter Annie, 
the light and life of my house. Deeply distressed by this 
bereavement, and acting upon the impulse of the moment, 
regardless of the peril, I at once resolved to return home, 
and took the first outgoing steamer for Portland, Maine. 
After a rough passage of seventeen days I reached home 
by way of Canada, and remained in my house nearly 
a month before the knowledge got abroad that I was 
again in this country. Great changes had now taken 
place in the public mind touching the John Brown raid. 
Virginia had satisfied her thirst for blood. She had exe- 


cuted all the raiders who had fallen into her hands. She 
had not given Captain Brown the benefit of a reasonable 
doubt, but hurried him to the scaffold in panic-stricken 
haste. She had made herself ridiculous by her friglit 
and despicable by her fury. Emerson's prediction that 
Brown's gallows would become like the cross was already 
being fulfilled. The old hero, in the trial hour, had be- 
haved so grandly that men regarded him not as a mur- 
derer but as a martyr. All over the North men were 
singing the John Brown song. His body was in the dust, 
but his soul was marching on. His defeat was already 
assuming the form and pressure of victory, and his death 
was giving new, life and power to the principles of justice 
and liberty. He had spoken great words in the face of 
death and the champions of slavery. He had quailed be- 
fore neither. What he had lost by the sword he had 
more than gained by the truth. Had he wavered, had he 
retreated or apologized, the case had been different. He 
did not even ask that the cup of death might pass from 
him. To his own soul he was right, and neither " princi- 
palities nor powers, life nor death, things present nor 
things to come," could shake his dauntless spirit or move 
him from his ground. He may not have stooped on his 
way to the gallows to kiss a little colored child, as it is 
reported he did, but the act would have been in keeping 
with the tender heart, as well as with the heroic spirit of 
the man. Those who looked for confession heard only 
the voice of rebuke and warning. 

Early after the insurrection at Harper's Ferry an inves- 
tigating committee was appointed by Congress, and a 
" drag net " was spread all over the country in the hope 
of inculpating many distinguished persons. They had 
imprisoned Thaddeus Hyatt, who denied their right to in- 
terrogate him, and had called many witnesses before 
them, as if the judicial power of the nation had been con- 


fided to their committee and not to the Supreme Court of 
the United States. But Captain Brown implicated no- 
body. Upon his own head he invited all the bolts 
of slaveholding vengeance. He said that he, and he alone, 
w^as responsible for all that had happened. He had many 
friends, but no instigators. In all their efforts this com- 
mittee signally failed, and soon after my arrival home 
they gave up the search and asked to be discharged, not 
having half fulfilled the duty for which they were ap- 

I have never been able to account satisfactorilv for the 
sudden abandonment of this investigation on any other 
ground than that the men engaged in it expected soon to 
be in rebellion themselves, and that not a rebellion for 
liberty, like that of John Brown, but a rebellion for slav- 
ery, and that they saw that by using their senatorial 
power in search of rebels they might be whetting a knife 
for their own throats. At any rate the country was soon 
relieved of the congressional drag-net and was now 
engaged in the heat and turmoil of a presidential canvass 
— a canvass which had no parallel, involving as it did the 
question of peace or war, the integrity or the dismember- 
ment of the Republic, and, I may add, the maintenance or 
destruction of slavery. In some of the Southern States 
the people were already organizing and arming to be 
ready for an apprehended contest, and wdth this work on 
their hands they had no time to spare to those they had 
wished to convict as instigators of the raid, however de- 
sirous they might have been to do so under other circum- 
stances, for they had parted with none of their hate. As 
showing their feeling toward me, I may state that a col- 
ored man appeared about this time in Knoxville, Tenn., 
and was beset by a furious crowd with knives and bludg- 
eons because he was supposed to be Fred. Douglass. But, 
how^ever perilous it would have been for me to have shown 


myself in any Southern State, there was no especial dan- 
ger for me at the North. 

Though disappointed in my tour on the Continent, and 
called home by One of the saddest events that can afflict 
the domestic circle, my presence here was fortunate, since 
it enabled me to participate in the most important and 
memorable presidential canvass ever witnessed in the 
United States, and to labor for the election of a man who 
in the order of events was destined to do a greater service 
to his country and to mankind than any man who had 
gone before him in the presidential office. It is something 
to couple one's name with great occasions, and it was a 
great thing to me to be permitted to bear some humble 
part in this, the greatest that had thus far come to the 
American people. It was a great thing to achieve Ameri- 
can independence when we numbered three millions, but 
it was a greater thing to save this country from dismem- 
berment and ruin when it numbered thirty millions. He 
alone of all our Presidents was to have the opportunity to 
destroy slavery, and to lift into manhood millions of his 
countrymen hitherto held as chattels and numbered with 
the beasts of the field. 

TJie presidential canvass of 1860 was three-sided, and 
each side had its distinctive doctrine as to the question of 
slavery and slavery extension. We had three candidates 
in the field. Stephen A. Douglas was the standard- 
bearer of what may be called the western faction of the 
old divided democratic party, and John C. Breckenridge 
was the standard-bearer of the southern or slaveholding 
faction of that party. Abraham Lincoln represented the 
then young, growing, and united republican party. The 
lines between these parties and candidates were about as 
distinctly and clearly drawn as political lines are capable 
of being drawn. The name of Douglas stood for territo- 
rial sovereignty, or, in other words, for the right of the 


people of a territory to admit or exclude, to establish or 
abolish, slavery, as to them might seem best. The doc- 
trine of Breckenridge was that slaveholders were entitled 
to carry their slaves into any territory of the United 
States and to hold them there, with or without the con- 
sent of the people of the territory ; that the Constitution 
of its own force carried slavery and protected it into any 
territory open for settlement in the United States. To 
both these parties, factions, and doctrines, Abraham Lin- 
coln and the republican party stood opposed. They held 
that the Federal Government had the right and the power 
to exclude slavery from the territories of the United 
States, and that that right and power ought to be exercised 
to the extent of confining slavery inside the slave States, 
with a view to its ultimate extinction. The position of 
Mr. Douglas gave him a splendid pretext for the display 
of a species of oratory of which he was a distinguished 
master. He alone of the three candidates took the 
stump as the preacher of popular sovereignty, called in 
derision at the time " Squatter " Sovereignty. This doc- 
trine, if not the times, gave him a chance to play fast and 
loose, blow hot and cold, as occasion might require. In 
the South and among slaveholders he could say, " My 
great principle of popular sovereignty does not and was 
not intended by me to prevent the extension of slavery ; on 
the contrary, it gives you the right to take your slaves 
into the territories and secure legislation legalizing 
slavery ; it denies to the Federal Grovernment all right of 
interference against you, and hence is eminently favorable 
to your interests." When among people known to be 
indifferent he could say, " I do not care whether slavery 
is voted up or down in the territory," but when address- 
ing the known opponents of the extension of slavery, he 
could say that the people of the territories were in no 
danger of having slavery forced upon them, since they 


could keep it out by adverse legislation. Had he made 
these representations before railroads, electric wires, 
phonography, and newspapers had become the powerful 
auxiliaries they have done, Mr. Douglas might have 
gained many votes, but they were of little avail now. 
The South was too sagacious to leave slavery to the 
chance of defeat in a fair vote by the people of a terri- 
tory. Of all property none could less afford to take such 
a risk, for no property can require more strongly favor- 
ing conditions for its existence. Not only the intelli- 
gence of the slave, but the instincts of humanity, must be 
barred by positive law, hence Breckenridge and his 
friends erected the flinty walls of the Constitution and 
the Supreme Court for the protection of slavery at the 
outset. Against both Douglas and Breckenridge Abraham 
Lincoln proposed his grand historic doctrine of the power 
and duty of the National Government to prevent the 
spread and perpetuity of slavery. Into this contest I 
threw myself, with firmer faith and more ardent hope 
than ever before, and what I could do by pen or voice 
was done with a will. The most remarkable and memor- 
able feature of this canvass was, that it was prosecuted 
under the portentous shadow of a threat : leading public 
men of the South had, with the vehemence of fiery pur- 
pose, given it out in advance that in case of their failure 
to elect their candidate (Mr. John C. Breckenridge) they 
would proceed to take the slaveholding States out of the 
Union, and that in no event whatever would they submit 
to the rule of Abraham Lincoln. To many of the peace- 
loving friends of the Union, this was a fearful announce- 
ment, and it doubtless cost the Republican candidates 
many votes. To many others, however, it was deemed a 
mere bravado — sound and fury signifying nothing. With 
a third class its effect was very different. They were 
tired of the rule-or-ruin intimidation adopted by the 


South, and felt then, if never before, that they had 
quailed before it too often and too long. It came as an 
insult and a challenge in one, and imperatively called 
upon them for independence, self-assertion, and resent- 
ment. Had southern men puzzled their brains to find 
the most effective means to array against slavery and 
slaveholding manners the solid opposition of the North, 
they could not have hit upon any expedient better suited 
to that end than was this threat. It was not only unfair, 
but insolent, and more like an address to cowardly slaves 
than to independent freemen ; it had in it the meanness 
of the horse-jockey who, on entering a race, proposes, if 
beaten, to run off with the stakes. In all my speeches 
made during this canvass, I did not fail to take advan- 
tage of this southern bluster and bullying. . 

As I have said, this southern threat lost many votes, 
but it gained more than would cover the lost. It fright- 
ened the timid, but stimulated the brave ; and the result 
was — the triumphant election of Abraham Lincoln. 

Then came the question, what will the South do about 
it ? Will she eat her bold words, and submit to the ver- 
dict of the people, or proceed to the execution of the pro- 
gramme she had marked out for herself prior to the 
election ? The inquiry was an anxious one, and the 
blood of the North stood still, waiting for the response. 
It had not to wait long, for the trumpet of war was soon 
sounded, and the tramp of armed men was heard in that 
region. During all the winter of 1860 notes of prepara- 
tion for a tremendous conflict came to us from that 
quarter on every wind. Still the warning was not taken. 
Few of the North could really believe that this insolent 
display of arms would end in anything more substantial 
than dust and smoke. 

The shameful and shocking course of President Bu- 
chanan and his cabinet towards this rising rebellion 


against the government which each and all of them had 
solemnly sworn to " support, defend, and maintain " — 
that the treasury was emptied, that the army was scat- 
tered, that our ships of war were sent out of the way, 
that our forts and arsenals in the South were weakened 
and crippled, — purposely left an easy prey to the pros- 
pective insurgents, — that one after another the States 
were allowed to secede ; that these rebel measures were 
largely encouraged by the doctrine of Mr. Buchanan, that 
he found no power in the Constitution to coerce a State, 
are all matters of history, and need only the briefest 
mention here. 

To arrest this tide of secession and revolution, which 
was sweeping over the South, the southern papers, which 
still had some dread of the consequences likely to ensue 
from the course marked out before the election, proposed 
as a means for promoting conciliation and satisfaction 
that '^ each northern State, through her legislature, or in 
convention assembled, should repeal all laws passed for 
the injury of the constitutional rights of the South (mean- 
ing thereby all laws passed for the protection of personal 
liberty) ; that they should pass laws for the easy and 
prompt execution of the fugitive-slave law ; that they 
should pass other laws imposing penalties on all male- 
factors who should hereafter assist or encourage the escape 
of fugitive slaves ; also, laws declaring and protecting the 
right of slaveholders to travel and sojourn in northern 
States, accompanied by their slaves ; also, that they should 
instruct their representatives and senators in Congress to 
repeal the law prohibiting the sale of slaves in the Dis- 
trict of Columbia, and pass laws sufficient for the full 
protection of slave property in the Territories of the 

It may indeed be well regretted that there was a class 
of men in the North willing to patch up a peace with this 


rampant spirit of disunion by compliance with these 
offensive, scandalous, and humiliating terms, and to do 
so without any guarantee that the South would then be 
pacified ; rather with the certainty, learned by past expe- 
rience, that it would by no means promote this end. I 
confess to a feeling allied to satisfaction at the prospect 
of a conflict between the North and the South. Standing 
outside the pale of American humanity, denied citizen- 
ship, unable to call the land of my birth my country, and 
adjudged by the supreme court of the United States to 
have no rights which white men were bound to respect, 
and longing for the end of the bondage of my people, I 
was ready for any political upheaval which should bring 
about a change in the existing condition of things. 
Whether the war of words would or would not end in 
blows was for a time a matter of doubt; and when it 
became certain that the South was wholly in earnest, 
and meant at all hazards to execute its threats of disrup- 
tion, a visible change in the sentiment of the North was 

The reaction from the glorious assertion of freedom 
and independence on the part of the North in the tri- 
umphant election of Abraham Lincoln, was a painful and 
humiliating development of its weakness. It seemed as 
if all that had been gained in the canvass was about to 
be surrendered to the vanquished : that the South, though 
beaten at the polls, were to be victorious and have every- 
thing its own way in the final result. During all the 
intervening months, from November to the ensuing 
March, the drift of Northern sentiment was towards 
compromise. To smooth the way for this, most of the 
Northern legislatures repealed their personal liberty bills, 
as they were supposed to embarrass the surrender of 
fugitive slaves to their claimants. The feeling every- 
where seemed to be that something must be done to con- 

Portrait of William Lloyd Garrison. 


vince the South that the election of Mr. Lincohi meant 
no harm to slavery or the slave power, and that the 
North was sound on the question of the right of the mas- 
ter to hold and hunt his slave as long as he pleased, and 
that even the right to hold slaves in the Territories 
should be submitted to the supreme court, which would 
probably decide in favor of the most extravagant demands 
of the slave States. The Northern press took on a more 
conservative tone towards the slavery propagandists, and 
a corresponding tone of bitterness towards anti-slavery 
men and measures. It came to be a no uncommon thing 
to hear men denouncing South Carolina and Massachu- 
setts in the same breath, and in the same measure of 
disapproval. The old pro-slavery spirit which, in 1835, 
mobbed anti-slavery prayer-meetings, and dragged William 
Lloyd Garrison through the streets of Boston with a 
halter about his neck, was revived. From Massachusetts 
to Missouri, anti-slavery meetings were ruthlessly assailed 
and broken up. With others, I was roughly handled by 
a mob in Tremont Temple, Boston, headed by one of the 
wealthiest men of that city. The talk was that the blood 
of some abolitionist must be shed to appease the wrath of 
the offended South, and to restore peaceful relations 
between the two sections of the country. A howling 
mob followed Wendell Phillips for three days whenever 
he appeared on the pavements of his native city, because 
of his ability and prominence in the propagation of anti- 
slavery opinions. 

While this humiliating reaction was going on at the 
North, various devices were suggested and pressed at 
Washington, to bring about peace and reconciliation. 
Committees were appointed to listen to southern griev- 
ances, and, if possible, devise means of redress for such 
as might be alleged. Some of these peace propositions 
would have been shocking to the last degree to the moral 


sense of the North, had not fear for the safety of the 
Union overwhelmed all moral conviction. Such men as 
William H. Seward, Charles Francis Adams, Henry B. 
Anthony, Joshua R. Giddings, and others — men whose 
courage had been equal to all other emergencies — bent 
before this southern storm, and were ready to purchase 
peace at any price. Those who had stimulated the cour- 
age of the North before the election, and had shouted 
" Who's afraid ? " were now shaking in their shoes with 
apprehension and dread. One was for passing laws in 
the northern States for the better protection of slave- 
hunters, and for the greater efficiency of the fugitive- 
slave bill. Another was for enacting laws to punish the 
invasion of the slave States, and others were for so alter- 
ing the Constitution of the United States that the federal 
government should never abolish slavery while any one. 
State should object to such a measure.* Everything that 
could be demanded by insatiable pride and selfishness on 
the part of the slave-holding South, or could be surren- 
dered by abject fear and servility on the part of the 
North, had able and eloquent advocates. 

Happily for the cause of human freedom, and for the 
final unity of the American nation, the South was mad, 
and would listen to no concessions. They would neither 
accept the terms offered, nor offer others to be accepted. 
They had made up their minds that under a given con- 
tingency they would secede from the Union, and thus 
dismember the Republic. That contingency had hap- 
pened, and they should execute their threat. Mr. Ireson 
of Georgia, expressed the ruling sentiment of his section 
when he told the northern peacemakers that if the people 
of the South were given a blank sheet of paper upon 
which to write their own terms on which they would 
remain in the Union, they would not stay. They had 

* See History of American Couflict, Vol. II, by Horace Greeley. 


come to hate everything which had the prefix "Free" — 
free soil, free States, free territories, free schools, free 
speech, and freedom generally, and they would have no 
more such prefixes. This hauglity and unreasonable and 
unreasoning attitude of the imperious South saved the 
slave and saved the nation. Had the South accepted our 
concessions and remained in the Union, the slave power 
would in all probability have continued to rule ; the North 
would have become utterly demoralized; the hands on 
the dial-plate of American civilization would have been 
reversed, and the slave would have been dragging his 
hateful chains to-day wherever the American flag floats 
to the breeze. Those who may wish to see to what 
depths of humility and self-abasement a noble people can 
be brought under the sentiment of fear, will find no chap- 
ter of history more instructive than that which treats of 
the events in official circles in Washington during the 
space between the months of November, 1859, and March, 



Recruiting of the o4th and 55tli Colored Regiments — Visit to Presi- 
dent Lincoln and Secretary Stanton — Promised a Commission as 
Adjutant-General to General Thomas — Disappointment. 

THE cowardly and disgraceful reaction from a cour- 
ageous and manly assertion of right principles, as 
described in the foregoing pages, continued surprisingly 
long after secession and war were commenced. The 
patience and forbearance of the loyal people of the North 
were amazing. Speaking of this feature of the situation 
in Corinthian Hall, Rochester, at the time, I said : 

"We (the people of the North) are a charitable people, and, in the 
excess of this feeling, we were disposed to put the very best construc- 
tion upon the strange behavior of our southern brethren. We hoped 
that all would yet go well. We thought that South Carolina might 
secede. It was entirely like her to do so. She had talked extrav- 
agantly about going out of the Union, and it was natural that she 
should do something extravagant and startling, if for nothing else, to 
make a show of consistency. Georgia, too, we thought might possibly 
secede. But, strangely enough, we thought and felt quite sure that 
these twin rebellious States would stand alone and unsupported in 
their infamy and their impotency, that they would soon tire of their 
isolation, repent of their folly, and come back to their places in the 
Union. Traitors withdrew from the Cabinet, from the House of Rep- 
resentatives, and from the Senate, and hastened to their several States 
to 'fire the Southern heart,' and to fan the hot flames of treason at 
home. Still we doubted if anything serious would come of it. We 
treated it as a bubble on the wave — a nine-days' wonder. Calm and 
thoughtful men ourselves, we relied upon the sober second thought 
of the southern people. Even the capture of a fort, a shot at one of 
our ships — an insult to the national flag — caused only a momentary 
feeling of indignation and resentment. We could not but believe 
that there existed at the South a latent and powerful Union sentiment 


author's speech in ROCHESTER. 409 

which would assert itself at last. Though loyal soldiers had been 
fired upon in the streets of Baltimore, though loyal blood had stained 
the pavements of that beautiful city, and the national government 
was warned to send no troops through Baltimore to the defense of the 
National Capital, we could not be made to believe that the border 
States would plunge madly into the bloody vortex of rebellion. 

" But this confidence, patience, and forbearance could not last for- 
ever. These blissful illusions of hope were, in a measure, dispelled 
when the batteries of Charleston harbor were opened upon the starv- 
ing garrison at Fort Sumter. For the moment the northern lamb 
was transformed into a lion, and his roar was terrible. But he only 
showed his teeth, and clearly had no wish to use them. We preferred 
to fight with dollars, and not daggers. * The fewer battles the better,* 
was the hopeful motto at Washington. * Peace in sixty days ' was 
held out by the astute Secretary of State. In fact, there was at the 
North no disposition to fight, no spirit of hate, no comprehension of 
the stupendous character and dimensions of the rebellion, and no 
proper appreciation of its inherent wickedness. Treason had shot its 
poisonous roots deeper and had spread its death-dealing branches fur- 
ther than any northern calculation had covered. Thus, while rebels 
were waging a barbarous war, marshaling savage Indians to join them 
in the slaughter, while rifled cannon-balls were battering down the 
walls of our forts, and the iron-clad hand of monarchical power was 
being invokqd to assist in the destruction of our government and the 
dismemberment of our country, while a tremendous^ rebel ram was 
sinking our fleet and threatening the cities of our coast, we were still 
dreaming of peace. This infatuation, this blindness to the signifi- 
cance of passing events, can only be accounted for by the rapid pas- 
sage of these events and by the fact of the habitual leniency and 
good will cherished by the North towards the South. Our very lack 
of preparation for the conflict disposes us to look for some other than 
the way of blood out of the difiiculty. Treason had largely infected 
both army and navy. Floyd had scattered our arms, Cobb had 
depleted our treasury, and Buchanan had poisoned the political 
thought of the times by his doctrines of anti-coercion. It was in 
such a condition of things as this that Abraham Lincoln (compelled 
from fear of assassination to enter the capital in disguise) was inau- 
gurated and issued his proclamation for the ' repossession of the forts, 
places, and property which had been seized from the Union,' and his 
call upon the miltia of the several States to the number of 75,000 
men — a paper which showed how little even he comprehended the 
work then before the loyal nation. It was perhaps better for the 
country and for mankind that the good man could not know the end 
from the beginning. Had he foreseen the thousands who must sink 


into bloody graves, the mountains of deb.t to be laid on the breast of 
the nation, the terrible hardships and sufferings involved in the con- 
test, and his own death by an assassin's hand, he too might have 
adopted the weak sentiment of those who said ' Erring sisters, depart 
in peace.'" 

From the first, I, for one, saw in this war the end of 
slavery ; and truth requires me to say that my interest 
in the success of the North was largely due to this belief. 
True it is that this faith was many times shaken by pass- 
ing events, but never destroyed. When Secretary Sew- 
ard instructed our ministers to say to the governments to 
which they were accredited that, " terminate however it 
might, the status of no class of the people of the United 
States would be changed by the rebellion — that the slaves 
would be slaves still, and that the masters would be mas- 
ters still " — when General McClellan and General Butler 
warned the slaves in advance that, " if any attempt was 
made by them to gain their freedom it would be sup- 
pressed with an iron hand " — when the government per- 
sistently refused to employ colored troops — when the 
emancipation proclamation of General John C. Fremont, 
in Missouri, was withdrawn — when slaves were being 
returned from our lines to their masters — when Union 
soldiers were stationed about the farm-houses of Virginia 
to guard and protect the master in holding his slaves — 
when Union soldiers made themselves more active in 
kicking colored men out of their camps than in shooting 
rebels — when even Mr. Lincoln could tell the poor negro 
that "he was the cause of the war," I still believed, and 
spoke as I believed, all over the North, that the mission 
of the war was the liberation of the slave, as well as the 
salvation of the Union ; and hence from the first I 
reproached the North that they fought the rebels with 
only one hand, when they might strike effectually with 
two — that they fought with their soft white hand, wliile 
they kept their black iron hand chained and helpless 


behind them — that they fought the effect, while they pro- 
tected the cause, and that the Union cause would never 
prosper till the war assumed an anti-slavery attitude, and 
the negro was enlisted on the loyal side. In every way 
possible — in the columns of my paper and on the plat- 
form, by letters to friends, at home and abroad, I did all 
_that I could to impress this conviction upon this country. 
But nations seldom listen to advice from individuals, 
however reasonable. They are taught less by theories 
than by facts and events. There was much that could 
be said against making the war an abolition war — much 
that seemed wise and patriotic. " Make the war an abo- 
lition war," we were told, " and you drive the border 
States into the rebellion, and thus add power to the 
enemy and increase the number you will have to meet on 
the battle-field. You will exasperate and intensify south- 
ern feeling, making it more desperate, and put far away 
the day of peace between the two sections." " Employ 
the arm of the negro, and the loyal men of the North will 
throw down their arms and go home." " This is the 
white man's country and the white man's war." " It 
would inflict an intolerable wound upon the pride and spirit 
of white soldiers of the Union to see the negro in the 
United States uniform. Besides, if you make the negro a 
soldier, you cannot depend on his courage ; a crack of his 
old master's whip would send him scampering in terror 
from the field." And so it was that custom, pride, 
prejudice, and the old-time respect for southern feeling, 
held back the government from an anti-slavery policy and 
from arming tlie negro. Meanwhile the rebellion availed 
itself of the negro most effectively. He was not only the 
stomach of the rebellion, by supplying its commissary de- 
partment, but he built its forts, and dug its intrench- 
ments, and performed other duties of the camp which left 
the rebel soldier more free to fight the loyal army than 


lie could otherwise have been. It was the cotton and 
corn of the negro that made the rebellion sack stand on 
end and caused a continuance of the war. "Destroy 
tliese," was the burden of all my utterances during this 
part of the struggle, '' and you cripple and destroy the re- 
bellion." It is surprising how long and bitterly the gov- 
ernment resisted and rejected this view of the situation. 
The abolition heart of the North ached over the delay, 
and uttered its bitter complaints, but the administration 
remained blind and dumb. Bull Run, Ball's Bluff, Big 
Bethel, Fredericksburg, and the Peninsula disasters were 
the only teachers whose authority was of sufficient import- 
ance to excite the attention or respect of our rulers, and 
they were even slow in being taught by these. An import- 
ant point was gained, however, when General B. F. Butler, 
at Fortress Monroe, announced the policy of treating 
the slaves as " contrabands," to be made useful to the 
Union cause, and was sustained therein at Washington, 
and sentiments of a similar nature were expressed on the 
floor of Congress by Hon. A. G. Riddle of Ohio. A grand 
accession was made to this view of the case when Hon. 
Simon Cameron, then secretary of war, gave it his earnest 
support, and General David Hunter put the measure into 
practical operation in South Carolina. General Phelps 
from Vermont, in command at Carroll ton. La., also ad- 
vocated the same plan, though under discouragements 
which cost him his command. And many and grievous 
disasters on flood and field were needed to educate the 
loyal nation and President Lincoln up to the realization 
of the necessity, not to say justice, of this position, and 
many devices, intermediate steps, and make-shifts were 
suggested to smooth the way to the ultimate policy of 
freeing the slave, and arming the freedmen. 

When at last the truth began to dawn upon the admin- 
istration that the negro might be made useful to loyalty, 


as well as to treason, to the Union as well as to the Con- 
federacy, it then considered in what way it could employ 
him, which would in the least shock and offend the popu- 
lar prejudice against him. He was already in the army 
as a waiter, and in that capacity there was no objection to 
him ; and so it was thought that as this was the case, the 
feeling which tolerated him as a waiter would not 
seriously object if he should be admitted to the army as 
a laborer, especially as no one under a southern sun cared 
to have a monopoly of digging and toiling in trenches. 
This was the first step in employing negroes in the 
United States service. The second step was to give them 
a peculiar costume which should distinguish them from 
soldiers, and yet mark them as a part of the loyal force. 
As the eyes of the loyal administration still further 
opened, it was proposed to give these laborers something 
better than spades and shovels with which to defend 
themselves in cases of emergency. Still later it was pro- 
posed to' make them soldiers, but soldiers without the 
blue uniform. Soldiers with a mark upon them to show 
that they were inferior to other soldiers ; soldiers with a 
badge of degradation upon them. However, once in the 
army as a laborer, once there with a red shirt on his back 
and a pistol in his belt, the negro was not long in appear- 
ing on the field as a soldier. But still, he was not to be a 
soldier in the sense, and on an equal footing, with white 
soldiers. It was given out that he was not to be employed in 
the open field with white troops, under the inspiration of 
doing battle and winning victories for the Union cause, 
and in the face and teeth of his old masters, but that he 
should be made to garrison forts in yellow-fever and 
otherwise unhealthy localities of the South, to save the 
health of white soldiers ; and, in order to keep up the dis- 
tinction further, the black soldiers were to have only half 
the wages of the white soldiers, and were to be com- 


mandcd entirely by white commissioned officers. While 
of course I was deeply pained and saddened by the esti- 
mate thus j)ut upon my race, and grieved at the slowness 
of heart which marked the conduct of the loyal govern- 
ment, I was not discouraged, and urged every man who 
could to enlist ; to get an eagle on his button, a musket 
on his shoulder, and the star- spangled banner over his 
head. Hence, as soon as Governor Andrew of Massa- 
chusetts received permission from Mr. Lincoln to raise 
two colored regiments, the 54tli and 55th, I made the 
following address to the colored citizens of the North 
through my paper, then being published in Rochester, 
which was copied in the leading journals : 


" When first the rebel cannon shattered the walls of Sumter and 
drove away its starving garrison, I predicted that the war then and 
there inaugurated would not be fought out entirely by white men. 
Every mouth's experience during these dreary years has confirmed 
that opinion. A war undertaken and brazenly carried on for the 
perpetual enslavement of colored men, calls logically and loudly for 
colored men to help suppress it. Only a moderate share of sagacity 
was needed to see that the arm of the slave was the best defense 
against the arm of the slaveholder. Hence, with every reverse to the 
national arms, with every exulting shout of victory raised by the 
slaveholding rebels, I have implored the imperiled nation to unchain 
against her foes her powerful black hand. Slowly and reluctantly 
that appeal is beginning to be heeded. Stop not now to complain 
that it was not heeded sooner. It may or it may not have been best 
that it should not. This is not the time to discuss that question. 
Leave it to the future. When the war is over, the country is saved, 
peace is established, and the black man's rights are secured, as they 
will be, history with an impartial hand will dispose of that and sundry 
other questions. Action ! action ! not criticism, is the plain duty of 
this hour. Words are now useful only as they stimulate to blows. 
The office of speech now is only to point out when, where, and how 
to strike to the best advantage. There is no time to delay. The 
tide is at its flood that leads on to fortune. From East to West, from 
North to South, the sky is written all over, 'Now or never.' Lib- 
erty won by white men would lose half its luster. * Who would be 


free themselves must strike the blow. ' 'Better even die free, than to live 
slaves. ' This is the sentiment of every brave colored man amongst 
■us. There are weak and cowardly men in all nations. W^e have 
them amongst us. They tell you this is the 'white man's war'; that 
you ' will be no better off after than before the war ' ; that the getting 
of you into the army is to ' sacrifice you on the first opportunity. ' 
Believe them not ; cowards themselves, they do not wish to have their 
cowardice shamed by your brave example. Leave them to their 
timidity, or to whatever motive may hold them back. I have not 
thought lightly of the words I am now addressing you. The counsel I 
give comes of close observation of the great struggle now in pro- 
gress, and of the deep conviction that this is your hour and mine. In 
good earnest, then, and after the best deliberation, I now, for the first 
time during this war, feel at liberty to call and counsel you to arms. 
By every consideration which binds you to your enslaved fellow-coun- 
trymen, and the peace and welfare of your country ; by every aspira- 
tion which you cherish for the freedom and equality of yourselves 
and your children ; by all the ties of blood and identity which make 
us one with the brave black men now fighting our battles in Louisi- 
ana and in South Carolina, I urge you to fly to arms, and smite with 
death the power that would bury the government and your liberty in 
the same hopeless grave. I wish I could tell you that the State of 
New York, calls you to this high honor. For the moment her con- 
stituted authorities are silent on the subject. They will speak by 
and by, and doubtless on the right side ; but we are not compelled to 
wait for her. We can get at the throat of treason and slavery through 
the State of Massachusetts. She was first in the War of Independ- 
ence ; first to break the chains of her slaves ; first to make the black 
man equal before the law ; first to admit colored children to her com- 
mon schools, and she was first to answer with her blood the alarm-cry 
of the nation, when its capital was menaced by rebels. You know 
her patriotic governor, and you know Charles Sumner. I need not 
add more. 

Massachusetts now welcomes you to arms as soldiers. She has but 
a small colored population from which to recruit. She has full leave 
of the general government to send one regiment to the war, and she 
has undertaken to do it. Go quickly and help fill up the first 
colored regiment from the North. I am authorized to assure you that 
you will receive the same wages, the same rations, the same equip- 
ments, the same protection, the same treatment, and the same bounty, 
secured to white soldiers. You will be led by able and skillful officers, 
men who will take especial pride in your efficiency and success. 
They will be quick to accord to you all the honor you shall merit by 
your valor, and see that your rights and feelings are respected by 


other soldiers. I have assured myself on these points, and can speak 
with authority. More than twenty years of unswerving devotion to 
our common cause may give me some humble claim to be trusted at 
this momentous crisis. I will not argue. To do so implies hesitation 
and doubt, and you do not hesitate. You do not doubt. The day 
dawns ; the morning star is bright upon the horizon ! The iron gate 
of our prison stands half open. One gallant rush from the North 
will fling it wide open, while four millions of our brothers and sisters 
shall march out into liberty. The chance is now given you to end in 
a day the bondage of centuries, and to rise in one bound from social 
degradation to the place of common equality with all other varieties 
of men. Remember Denmark Vessey of Charleston ; remember Na- 
thaniel Turner of South Hampton; remember Shields Green and 
Copeland, who followed noble John Brown, and fell as glorious mar- 
tyrs for the cause of the slave. Remember that in a contest with 
oppression, the Almighty has no attribute which can take sides with 
oppressors. The case is before you. This is our golden opportunity. 
Let us accept it, and forever wipe out the dark reproaches unspar- 
ingly hurled against us by our enemies. Let us win for ourselves the 
gratitude of our country, and the best blessings of our posterity 
through all time. The nucleus of this first regiment is now in camp 
at Readville, a short distance from Boston. I will undertake to for- 
ward to Boston all persons adjudged fit to be mustered into the regi- 
ment, who shall apply to me at any time within the next two weeks. 
"Rochester, March 2, 1863." 

Immediately after authority had been given by Presi- 
dent Lincoln to Governor John A. Andrew of Massachu- 
setts, to raise and equip two regiments of colored men 
for the war, I received a letter from George L. Stearns of 
Boston, a noble worker for freedom in Kansas, and a 
warm friend of John Brown, earnestly entreating me 
to assist in raising the required number of men. It was 
presumed that by my labors in the anti-slavery cause, I 
had gained some influence with the colored men of the 
country, and that they would listen to me in this emergency; 
which supposition, I am happy to say, was supported 
by the results. There were fewer colored people in 
Massachusetts then than now, and it was necessary, in 
order to make up the full quota of these regiments, to 
recruit for them in other Northern States. The nominal 


conditions upon which colored men were asked to enlist 
were not satisfactory to me or them; but assurances 
from Governor Andrew that they would in the end be 
made just and equal, together with my faith in the logic 
of events, and my conviction that the wise thing to do 
was for the colored man to get into the army by any door 
open to him, no matter how narrow, made me accept with 
alacrity the work to which I was invited. The raising of 
these two regiments — the 54th and 55th — and their splen- 
did behavior in South and North Carolina, was the begin- 
ning of great things for the colored people of the whole 
country ; and not the least satisfaction I now have in 
contemplating my humble part in raising them, is the 
fact that my two sons, Charles and Lewis, were the first 
two in the State of New York to enlist in them. The 
54th was not long in the field before it proved itself gal- 
lant and strong, worthy to rank with the most courageous 
of its white companions in arms. Its assault upon Fort 
Wagner, in which it was so fearfully cut to pieces, and 
lost nearly half its officers, including its beloved and 
trusted commander. Col. Shaw, at once gave it a name 
and a fame throughout the country. In that terrible 
battle, under the wing of night, more cavils in respect of 
the quality of negro manhood were set at rest than could 
have been during a century of ordinary life and observa- 
tion. After that assault we heard no more of sending 
negroes to garrison forts and arsenals, to fight miasma, 
yellow-fever, and small-pox. Talk of his ability to meet 
the foe in the open field, and of his equal fitness with the 
white man to stop a bullet, then began to prevail. From 
this time (and the fact ought to be remembered) the 
colored troops were called upon to occupy positions which 
required the courage, steadiness, and endurance of vet- 
erans, and even their enemies were obliged to admit that 
they proved themselves worthy the confidence reposed in 


tlicm. After the 54th and 55th Massacliusetts colorerl 
]-cgiinents were placed in the field, and one of them had 
distinguished itself with so much credit in the hour of 
trial, the desire to send more such troops to the front 
hecame pretty general. Pennsylvania proposed to raise 
ten regiments. I was again called by my friend Mr. 
Stearns to assist in raising these regiments, and I set 
about the work with full purpose of heart, using every 
argument of which I was capable to persuade every col- 
ored man able to bear arms to rally around the flag, and 
help to save the country and save the race. It was dur- 
ing this time that the attitude of the government at 
Washington caused me deep sadness and discouragement, 
and forced me in a measure to suspend my efforts in that 
direction. I had assured colored men that once in the 
Union army they would be put upon an equal footing 
with other soldiers ; that they would be paid, promoted, 
and exchanged as prisoners of war, Jeff Davis's threat 
that they would be treated as felons to the contrary not- 
withstanding. But thus far, the government had not 
kept its promise, or the promise made for it. The follow- 
ing letter which I find published in my paper of the same 
date will show the course I felt it my duty to take under 

the circumstances : 

** Rochester, August 1st, 1863. 
"Major George L. Stearns: 

"My Dear Sir, — Having declined to attend the meeting to promote 
enlistments, appointed for me at Pittsburgh, in present circumstances, 
I owe you a word of explanation. I have hitherto deemed it a duty, 
as it certainly has been a pleasure, to cooperate with you in the work 
of raising colored troops in the free States to fight the battles of the 
Republic against slaveholding rebels and traitors. Upon the first call 
you gave me to this work I responded with alacrit}^ I saw, or 
thought I saw, a ray of light, brightening the future of my whole 
race, as well as that of our war-troubled country, in arousing colored 
men to fight for the nation's life. I continue to believe in the black 
man's arm, and still have some hope in the integrity of our rulers. 
Nevertheless, I must for the present leave to others the work of per- 


suading colored men to join the Union army. I owe it to my long- 
abused people, and especially to those already in the army, to expose 
their wrongs and plead their cause. I cannot do that in connection 
with recruiting. When I plead for recruits I want to do it with all 
my heart, without qualification. I cannot do that now. The impres- 
sion settles upon me that colored men have much over-rated the 
enlightenment, justice, and generosity of our rulers at Washington. 
In my humble way I have contributed somewhat to that false estimate. 
You know that when the idea of raising colored troops was first sug- *• 
gested, the special duty to be assigned them was the garrisoning of 
forts and arsenals in certain warm, unhealthy, and miasmatic localities 
in the South. They were thought to be better adapted to that service 
than white troops. White troops trained to war, brave and daring, 
were to take fortifications, and the blacks were to hold them from 
falling again into the hands of the rebels. Three advantages were to 
arise out of this wise division of labor: 1st, The spirit and pride of 
white troops was not to waste itself in dull, monotonous inactivity in 
fort life ; their arms were to be kept bright by constant use. 2d, The 
health of white troops was to be preserved. 3d, Black troops were to 
have the advantage of sound military training and to be otherwise 
useful, at the same time that they should be tolerably secure from 
capture h^ the rebels, who early avowed their determination to enslave 
and slaughter them in defiance of the laws of war. Two out of the 
three advantages were to accrue to the white troops. Thus far, how- 
ever, I believe that no such duty as holding fortifications has been 
committed to colored troops. They have done far other and more 
important work than holding fortifications. I have no special com- 
plaint to make at this point, and I simply mention it to strengthen 
the statement that, from the beginning of this business, it was the 
confident belief among both the colored and white friends of colored 
enlistments that President Lincoln, as commander-in-chief of the army 
and navy, would certainly see to it that his colored troops should be 
so handled and disposed of as to be but little exposed to capture by 
the rebels, and that, if so exposed, as they have repeatedly been from 
the first, the President possessed both the disposition and the means 
for compelling the rebels to respect the rights of such as might fall 
into their hands. The piratical proclamation of Jefferson Davis, 
announcing slavery and assassination to colored prisoners, was before 
the country and the world. But men had faith in Mr. Lincoln and 
his advisers. He was silent, to be sure, but charity suggested that 
being a man of action rather than words he only waited for a case in 
which he should be required to act. This faith in the man enabled 
us to speak with warmth and effect in urging enlistments among 
colored men. That faith, my dear sir, is now nearly gone. Various 


occasions have arisen during the last six months for the exercise of 
his power in behalf of the colored men in his service. But no word 
comes to us from the war department, sternly assuring the rebel chief 
that inquisition shall yet be made for innocent blood. No word of 
retaliation when a black man is slain by a rebel in cold blood. No 
word was said when free men from Massachusetts were caught and 
sold into slavery in Texas. No word is said when brave black men 
who, according to the testimony of both friend and foe, fought like 
heroes to plant the star-spangled banner on the blazing parapets of 
Fort Wagner, and in doing so were captured, some mutilated and 
killed, and others sold into slavery. The same crushing silence 
reigns over this scandalous outrage as over that of the slaughtered 
teamsters at Murf reesboro ; the same as over that at Milliken's Bend 
and Vicksburg. I am free to say, my dear sir, that the case looks as 
if the confiding colored soldiers had been betrayed into bloody hands 
by the very government in whose defense they were heroically fight- 
ing. I know what you will say to this ; you will say ' Wait a little 
longer, and, after all, the best way to have justice done to your people 
is to get them into the army as fast as j^ou can.' You may be right in 
this ; my argument has been the same ; but have we not already waited, 
and have we not already shown the highest qualities of soldiers, and 
on this account deserve the protection of the government for which 
we are fighting? Can any case stronger than that before Charleston 
ever arise? If the President is ever to demand justice and humanity 
for black soldiers, is not this the time for him to do it? How many 
54ths must be cut to pieces, its mutilated prisoners killed, and its 
living sold into slavery, to be tortured to death by inches, before 
Mr. Lincoln shall say, ' Hold, enough! ' 

"You know the 54th. To you, more than to any one man, belongs 
the credit of raising that regiment. Think of its noble and brave 
officers literally hacked to pieces, while many of its rank and file have 
been sold into slavery worse than death ; and pardon me if I hesitate 
about assisting in raising a fourth regiment until the President shall 
give the same protection to them as to white soldiers. 

With warm and sincere regards, 

Frederick Douglas." 

" Since writing the foregoing letter, which we have now put upon 
record, we have received assurances from Major Stearns that the gov- 
ernment of the United States is already taking measures which will 
secure the captured colored soldiers at Charleston and elsewhere the 
same protection against slavery and cruelty extended to white soldiers. 
What ought to have been done at the beginning comes late, but it 
comes. The poor colored soldiers have purchased interference dearly. 


It really seems that nothing of justice, liberty, or humanity can come 
to us except through tears and blood." 


My efforts to secure just and fair treatment for the 
colored soldiers did not stop at letters and speeches. At 
the suggestion of my friend, Major Stearns, to whom the 
foregoing letter was addressed, I was induced to go to 
Washington and lay the complaints of my people before 
President Lincoln and the Secretary of War; and to urge 
upon them such action as should secure to the colored 
troops then fighting for the country a reasonable degree 
of fair play. I need not say that at the time I undertook 
this mission it required much more nerve than a similar 
one would require now. The distance then between the 
black man and the white American citizen was immeas- 
urable. I was an ex-slave, identified with a despised race, 
and yet I was to meet the most exalted person in this 
great republic. It was altogether an unwelcome duty, 
and one from which I would gladly have been excused. I 
could not know what kind of a reception would be 
accorded me. I might be told to go home and mind my 
business, and leave such questions as I had come to dis- 
cuss to be managed by the men wisely chosen by the 
American people to deal with them. Or I might be re- 
fused an interview altogether. Nevertheless, I felt bound 
to go, and my acquaintance with Senators Charles Sum- 
ner, Henry Wilson, Samuel Pomeroy, Secretary Salmon 
P. Chase, Secretary William H. Seward, and Assistant 
Secretary of War Charles A. Dana encouraged me to hope 
at least for a civil reception. My confidence was fully 
justified in the result. I shall never forget my first 
interview with this great man. I was accompanied 
to the executive mansion and introduced to President 
Lincoln by Senator Pomeroy. The room in which he re- 


ceived visitors was the one now used by the President's 
secretaries. I entered it with a moderate estimate of my 
own consequence, and yet there I was to talk with, and 
even to advise, the head man of a great nation. Happily 
for me, there was no vain pomp and ceremony about liim. 
I was never more quickly or more completely put at ease 
in the ])resence of a great man than in that of Abraham 
Lincoln. He was seated, when I entered, in a low arm- 
chair with his feet extended on the floor, surrounded by a 
large number of documents and several busy secretaries. 
The room bore the marks of business, and the persons in 
it, the President included, appeared to be much over- 
worked and tired. Long lines of care were already deeply 
written on Mr. Lincoln's brow, and his strong face, full of 
earnestness, lighted up as soon as my name was men- 
tioned. As I approached and was introduced to him he 
arose and extended his hand, and bade me welcome. I at 
once felt myself in the presence of an honest man — one 
whom I could love, honor, and trust without reserve or 
doubt. Proceeding to tell him who I was and what I was 
doing, he promptly, but kindly, stopped me, saying: 
'' I know who you are, Mr. Douglass ; Mr. Seward has told 
me all about you. Sit down. I am glad to see you." I then 
told him the object of my visit : that I was assisting to 
raise colored troops ; that several months before I had been 
very successful in getting men to enlist, but that now it 
was not easy to induce the colored men to enter the ser- 
vice, because there was a feeling among them that the 
government did not deal fairly with them in several 
respects. Mr. Lincoln asked me to state particulars. I 
replied that there were three particulars which I wished 
to bring to his attention. First, that colored soldiers 
ought to receive the same wages as those paid to white sol- 
diers. Second, that colored soldiers ought to receive the 
same protection when taken prisoners, and be exchanged 


as readily and on the same terms as any other prisoners, 
and if Jefferson Davis should shoot or hang colored sol- 
diers in cold blood the United States government should re- 
taliate in kind and degree without delay upon Confederate 
prisoners in its hands. Third, when colored soldiers, 
seeking " the bubble reputation at the cannon's mouth," 
performed great and uncommon service on the battle- 
field, they should be rewarded by distinction and promo- 
tion precisely as white soldiers are rewarded for like 

Mr. Lincoln listened with patience and silence to all I 
had to say. He was serious and even troubled by what I 
had said, and by what he had evidently thought liimself 
before upon the same points. He impressed me with the 
solid gravity of his character by his silent listening not 
less than by his earnest reply to my words. 

He began by saying that the employment of colored 
troops at all was a great gain to the colored people ; that 
the measure could not have been successfully adopted at 
the beginning of the war ; that the wisdom of making 
colored men soldiers was still doubted ; that their enlist- 
ment was a serious offense to popular prejudice ; that 
they had larger motives for being soldiers than white 
men ; that they ought to be willing to enter the service 
upon any condition ; that the fact that they were not 
to receive the same pay as white soldiers seemed a neces- 
sary concession to smooth the way to their employment 
at all as soldiers, but that ultimately they would receive 
the same. On the second point, in respect to equal pro- 
tection, he said the case was more difhcult. Retaliation 
was a terrible remedy, and one which it was very difficult 
to apply ; one which, if once begun, there was no telling 
where it would end ; that if he could get hold of the Con- 
federate soldiers who had been guilty of treating colored 
soldiers as felons he could easily retaliate, but the thought 


of lianp^ing men for a crime perpetrated by others was re- 
volting to his feelings. He thought that the rebels 
themselves would stop such barbarous warfare, and less 
evil would be done if retaliation were not resorted 
to ; that he had already received information that colored 
soldiers were being treated as prisoners of war. In all 
this I saw the tender heart of the man rather than the 
stern warrior and commander-in-chief of the American 
army and navy, and, while I could not agree with him, I 
could but respect his humane spirit. 

On the third point he appeared to have less difficulty, 
though he did not absolutely commit himself. He simply 
said that he would sign any commission to colored sol- 
diers whom his Secretary of War should commend to him. 
Though I was not entirely satisfied with his views, I was 
so well satisfied with the man and with the educating ten- 
dency of the conflict that I determined to go on with the 

From the President I went to see Secretary Stanton. 
The manner of no two men could be more widely differ- 
ent. I was introduced by Assistant Secretary Dana, 
whom I had known many years before at " Brook Farm," 
Mass., and afterward as managing editor of the New 
York Tribune. Every line in Mr. Stanton's face told me 
that my communication with him must be brief, clear, 
and to the point ; that he might turn his back upon me as 
a bore at any moment ; that politeness was not one of his 
weaknesses. His first glance was that of a man who 
says : " Well, what do you want ? I have no time to 
waste upon you or anybody else, and I shall waste none. 
Speak quick, or I shall leave you.'' The man and the 
place seemed alike busy. Seeing I had no time to lose, I 
hastily went over the ground I had gone over to President 
Lincoln. As I ended I was surprised by seeing a changed 
man before me. Contempt and suspicion and brusque- 
iiess had all disappeared from his face and manner, and 


for a few minutes he made the best defense that I 
had then heard from anybody of the treatment of colored 
soldiers by the government. I was not satisfied, yet I left 
in the full belief that the true course to the black man's 
freedom and citizenship was over the battle-field, and that 
my business was to get every black man I could into the 
Union armies. Both the President and Secretary of War 
assured me that justice would ultimately be done my 
race, and I gave full faith and credit to their promise. 
On assuring Mr. Stanton of my willingness to take a com- 
mission, he said he would make me assistant adjutant to 
General Thomas, who was then recruiting and organizing 
troops in the Mississippi valley. He asked me how soon 
I could be ready. I told him in two weeks, and that my 
commission might be sent me to Rochester. For some 
reason, however, my commission never came. The gov- 
ernment, I fear, was still clinging to the idea that 
positions of honor in the service should be occupied 
by white men, and that it would not do to inaugurate just 
then the policy of perfect equality. I wrote to the de- 
partment for my commission, but was simply told to 
report to General Thomas. This was so different from 
what I expected and from what I had been promised that 
I wrote to Secretary Stanton that I would report to 
General Thomas on receipt of my commission, but it did 
not come, and I did not go to the Mississippi valley as I 
had fondly hoped. I knew too much of camp life and the 
value of shoulder straps in the army to go into the service 
without some visible mark of my rank. I have no doubt 
that Mr. Stanton in the moment of our meeting meant all 
he said, but thinking the matter over he felt that the time 
had not then come for a step so radical and aggressive. 
Meanwhile my three sons were in the service, Lewis and 
Charles, as already named, in the Massachusetts regi- 
ments, and Frederick recruiting colored troops in the 
Mississippi valley. 



Proclamation of emancipation — Its reception in Boston — Objections 
brought against it — Its effect on the country — Interview with Presi- 
dent Lincoln — New York riots — Re-election of Mr. Lincoln — His 
inauguration, and inaugural — Vice-President Johnson — Presidential 
reception — The fall of Richmond — Fanuiel Hall — The assassination 
— Condolence. 

THE first of January, 1863, was a memorable day in 
the progress of American liberty and civilization. 
It was the turning-point in the conflict between freedom 
and slavery. A death-blow was given to the slavehold- 
ing rebellion. Until then the federal arm had been 
more than tolerant to that relic of barbarism. It had 
defended it inside the slave States ; it had countermanded 
the emancipation policy of John C. Fremont in Missouri ; 
it had returned slaves to their so-called owners ; and had 
threatened that any attempt on the part of the slaves to 
gain their freedom by insurrection, or otherwise, would 
be put down with an iron hand ; it had even refused to 
allow the Hutchinson family to sing their anti-slavery songs 
in the camps of the Army of the Potomac ; it had sur- 
rounded the houses of slaveholders with bayonets for 
their protection ; and through its secretary of war, Wil- 
liam H. Seward, had given notice to the world that, 
" however the war for the Union might terminate, no 
change would be made in the relation of master and 
slave." Upon this pro-slavery platform the war against 
the rebellion had been waged during more than two 
years. It had not been a war of conquest, but rather a 



war of conciliation. McClcUan, in command of the. 
army, had been trying, apparently, to put down the rebel- 
lion without hurting the rebels, certainly without hurting 
slavery, and the government had seemed to cooperate 
with him in both respects. Charles Sumner, William 
Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Gerrit Smith and the 
whole anti-slavery phalanx at the North, had denounced 
this policy, and had besought Mr. Lincoln to adopt an 
opposite one, but in vain. Generals in the field, and 
councils in the Cabinet, had persisted in advancing this 
policy through defeats and disasters, even to the verge of 
ruin. We fo tight the rebellion, but not its cause. The 
key to the situation was the four million of slaves; yet 
the slave who loved us, was hated, and the slaveholder 
who hated us, was loved. We kissed the hand that smote 
us, and spurned the hand that helped us. When the 
means of victory were before us, — within our grasp, — 
we went in search of the means of defeat. And now, on 
this day of January 1st, 1863, the formal and solemn 
announcement was made that thereafter the government 
would be found on the side of emancipation. This proc- 
lamation changed everything. It gave a new direction 
to the councils of the Cabinet, and to the conduct of the 
national arms. I shall leave to the statesman, the phil- 
osopher, and historian, the more comprehensive discussion 
of this document, and only tell how it touched me, and 
those in like condition with me at the time. I was in 
Boston, and its reception there may indicate the import- 
ance attached to it elsewhere. An immense assembly 
convened in Tremont Temple to await the first flash of 
the electric wires announcing the " new departure." Two 
years of war, prosecuted in the interests of slavery, had 
made free speech possible in Boston, and we were now 
met together to receive and celebrate the first utterance 
of the long-hoped-for proclamation, if it came, and, if it 


.did not come, to speak our minds freely ; for, in view of 
the past, it was by no means certain that it would come. 
The occasion, therefore, was one of both hope and fear. 
Our ship was on the open sea, tossed by a terrible storm ; 
wave after wave was passing over us, and every hour 
w^as fraught with increasing peril. Whether we should 
survive or perish depended in large measure upon the 
coming of this proclamation. At least so we felt. 
Although the conditions on which Mr. Lincoln had prom- 
ised to withhold it had not been complied with, yet, from 
many considerations, there was room to doubt and fear. 
Mr. Lincoln was known to be a man of tender heart, and 
boundless patience : no man could tell to what length he 
might go, or might refrain from going, in the direction of 
peace and reconciliation. Hitherto, he had not shown 
himself a man of heroic measures, and, properly enough, 
this step belonged to that class. It must be the end of 
all compromises with slavery — a declaration that there- 
after the war was to be conducted on a new principle, 
with a new aim. It would be a full and fair assertion 
that the government would neither trifle, or be trifled 
with, any longer. But would it come? On the side of 
doubt, it was said that Mr. Lincoln's kindly nature might 
cause him to relent at the last moment ; that Mrs. Lin- 
coln, coming from an old slaveholding family, would 
influence him to delay, and give the slaveholders one 
other chance.* Every moment of waiting chilled our 
hopes, and strengthened our fears. A line of messengers 
was established between the telegraph office and the plat- 
form of Tremont Temple, and the time was occupied with 
brief speeches from Hon. Thomas Russell of Plymouth, 
Miss Anna E. Dickinson (a lady of marvelous eloquence), 
Eev. Mr. Grimes, J. Sella Martin, William Wells Brown, 

*I have reason to know that this supposition did Mrs. Lincohi 
great injustice. 


and myself. But speaking or listening to speeches was 
not the thing for which the people had come together. 
The time for argument was passed. It was not logic, 
but the trump of jubilee, which everybody wanted to hear. 
We were waiting and listening as for a bolt from the 
sky, which should rend the fetters of four millions of 
slaves ; we were watching, as it were, by the dim light of 
the stars, for the dawn of a new day ; we were longing 
for the answer to the agonizing prayers of centuries. 
Remembering those in bonds as bound with them, we 
wanted to join in the shout for freedom, and in the anthem 
of the redeemed. 

Eight, nine, ten o'clock came and went, and still no 
word. A visible shadow seemed falling on the expecting 
throng, which the confident utterances of the speakers 
sought in vain to dispel. At last, when patience was 
well-nigh exhausted, and suspense was becoming agony, a 
man (I think it was Judge Russell) with hasty step ad- 
vanced through the crowd, and with a face fairly illumined 
with the news he bore, exclaimed in tones that thrilled 
all hearts, " It is coming ! '' " It is on the wires ! ! " 
The effect of this announcement was startling beyond de- 
scription, and the scene was wild and grand. Joy and 
gladness exhausted all forms of expression, from shouts 
of praise to sobs and tears. My old friend Rue, a colored 
preacher, a man of wonderful vocal power, expressed the 
heartfelt emotion of the hour, when he led all voices in 
the anthem, " Sound the loud timbrel o'er Egypt's dark 
sea, Jehovah hath triumphed, his people are free." 
About twelve o'clock, seeing there was no disposition to 
retire from the hall, which must be vacated, my friend 
Grimes (of blessed memory), rose and moved that the 
meeting adjourn to the Twelfth Baptist church, of which 
he was pastor, and soon that church was packed from doors 
to pulpit, and this meeting did not break up till near the 


dawn of day. It was one of tlie most affecting and thrill- 
ing occasions I ever witnessed, and a worthy celebration 
of the first step on the part of the nation in its departure 
from the thraldom of ages. 

There was evidently no disposition on the part of this 
meeting to criticise the proclamation ; nor was there with 
any one at -first. At the moment we saw only its anti- 
slavery side. But further and more critical examination 
showed it to be extremely defective. It was not a proc- 
lamation of " liberty throughout all the land, unto all the 
inhabitants thereof," such as we had hoped it would be ; 
but was one marked by discriminations and reservations. 
Its operation was confined within certain geographical 
and military lines. It only abolished slavery where it 
did not exist, and left it intact where it did exist. It was 
a measure apparently inspired by the low motive of mili- 
tary necessity, and by so far as it was so, it would become 
inoperative and useless when military necessity should 
cease. There was much said in this line, and much that 
was narrow and erroneous. For my own part, I took the 
proclamation, first and last, for a little more than it pur- 
ported, and saw in its spirit a life and power far beyond 
its letter. Its meaning to me was the entire abolition of 
slavery, wherever the evil could be reached by the Fed- 
eral arm, and I saw that its moral power would extend 
much further. It was in my estimation an immense gain 
to have the war for the Union committed to the extinction 
of slavery, even from a military necessity. It is not a 
bad thing to have individuals or nations do right, though 
they do so from selfish motives. I approved the one- 
spur-wisdom of " Paddy," who thought if he could get one 
side of his horse to go, he could trust the speed of the 
other side. 

Tlie effect of the proclamation abroad was highly bene- 
ficial to the loyal cause. Disinterested parties could now 


see in it a benevolent character. It was no longer a mere 
strife for territory and dominion, but a contest of civiliza- 
tion against barbarism. 

The proclamation itself was like Mr. Lincoln through- 
out. It was framed with a view to the least harm and 
the most good possible in the circumstances, and with 
especial consideration of the latter. It was thoughtful, 
cautious, and well guarded at all points. While he hated 
slavery, and really desired its destruction, he always pro- 
ceeded against it in a manner the least likely to shock or 
drive from him any who were truly in sympathy with the 
preservation of the Union, but who were not friendly to 
emancipation. For this he kept up the distinction be- 
tween loyal and disloyal slaveholders, and discriminated 
in favor of the one, as against the other. In a word, in 
all that he did, or attempted, he made it manifest that 
the one^reat and all-commanding object with him was the 
peace and preservation of the Union, and that this was the 
motive and main-spring of all his measures. His wisdom 
and moderation at this point were for a season useful to 
the loyal cause in the border States, but it may be fairly 
questioned whether it did not chill the union ardor of the 
loyal people of the North in some degree, and diminish 
rather than increase the sum of our power against the re- 
bellion ; for moderate, cautious, and guarded as was this 
proclamation, it created a howl of indignation and wrath 
amongst the rebels and their allies. The old cry was 
raised by the copperhead organs of "an abolition war," 
and a pretext was thus found for an excuse for refusing 
to enlist, and for marshaling all the negro prejudice of 
the North on the rebel side. Men could say they were 
willing to fight for the Union, but that they were not 
willing to fight for the freedom of the negroes ; and thus 
it was made difficult to procure enlistments or to enforce 
the draft. This was especially true of New York, where 


there was a large Irish population. The attempt to 
enforce the draft in that city was met by mobs, riot, and 
bloodshed. There is perhaps no darker chapter in the 
whole history of the war than this cowardly and bloody 
uprising in July, 1863. For three days and nights New 
York was in the hands of a ferocious mob, and there was 
not sufficient power in the government of the country or 
of the city itself to stay the hand of violence and the ef- 
fusion of blood. Though this mob was nominally against 
the draft which had been ordered, it poured out its fiercest 
wrath upon the colored people and their friends. It 
spared neither age nor sex ; it hanged negroes simply be- 
cause they were negroes ; it murdered women in their 
homes, and burnt their homes over their heads ; it dashed 
out the brains of young children against the lamp-posts ; 
it burned the colored orphan asylum, a noble charity on 
the corner of Fifth avenue, and scarce allowing time for 
the helpless two hundred children to make good their 
escape, plundering the building of every valuable piece of 
furniture ; and colored men, women, and children were 
forced to seek concealment in cellars or garrets or where- 
soever else it could be found, until this high carnival of 
crime and reign of terror should pass away. 
, In connection with George L. Stearns, Thomas Web- 
iter, and Col. Wagner, I had been at Camp William Penn, 
Philadelphia, assisting in the work of filling up the col- 
ored regiments, and was on my way home from there just 
as these events were transpiring in New York. I was 
met by a friend at Newark, who informed me of this con- 
dition of things. I, however, pressed on my way to the 
Chambers street station of the Hudson River Railroad in 
safety, the mob being in the upper part of the city, for- 
tunately for me, for not only my color, but my known 
activity in procuring enlistments, would have made me 
especially obnoxious to its murderous spirit. This was 


not the first time I had been in imminent peril in New 
York city. My first arrival there, after my escape from 
slavery, was full of danger. My passage through its 
borders after the attack of John Brown on Harper's Ferry 
was scarcely less safe. I had encountered Isaiah Rynders 
and his gang of ruffians in the old Broadway Tabernacle 
at our anti-slavery anniversary meeting, and I knew 
something of the crazy temper of such crowds ; but this 
anti-draft, anti-negro mob, was something more and some- 
thing worse — it was a part of the rebel force, without the 
rebel uniform, but with all its deadly hate ; it was the fire 
of the enemy opened in the rear of the loyal army. Such 
men as Franklin Pierce and Horatio Seymour had done 
much in their utterances to encourage resistance to the 
drafts. Seymour was then Governor of the Slate of New 
York, and while the mob was doing its deadly work he 
address'ed them as " My friends," telling them to desist 
then, while he could arrange at Washington to have the 
draft arrested. Had Governor Seymour been loyal to his 
country, and to his country's cause, in this her moment 
of need, he would have burned his tongue with a red hot 
iron sooner than allow it to call these thugs, thieves, 
and murderers his " friends." 

My interviews with President Lincoln and his able 
Secretary, before narrated, greatly increased my confi- 
dence in the anti-slavery integrity of the government, 
although I confess I was greatly disappointed at my fail- 
ure to receive the commission promised me by Secretary 
Stanton. I, however, faithfully believed, and loudly pro- 
claimed my belief, that the rebellion would be suppressed, 
the Union preserved, the slaves emancipated, and the 
colored soldiers would in the end have justice done them. 
This confidence was immeasurably strengthened when I 
saw Gen. George B. McClellan relieved from the com- 
mand of the army of the Potomac and Gen. U. S. Grant 

434 m'clellan and grant. 

})laccd at its head, and in command of all the armies of 
the United States. My confidence in Gen. Grant was not 
entirely due to the brilliant military successes achieved 
by him, but there was a moral as well as military basis 
for my faith in him. He had shown his single-minded- 
ness and superiority to popular prejudice by his prompt 
cooperation with President Lincoln in his policy of em- 
ploying colored troops, and his order commanding his 
soldiers to treat such troops with due respect. In this 
way he proved himself to be not only a wise general, but 
a great man — one who could adjust himself to new con- 
ditions, and adopt the lessons taught by the events of the 
hour. This quality in General Grant was and is made 
all the more conspicuous and striking in contrast with 
his West Point education and his former political asso- 
ciations ; for neither West Point nor the Democratic 
party have been good schools in which to learn justice 
and fair play to the negro. 

It was when General Grant was fighting his way 
through the Wilderness to Richmond, on the " line " he 
meant to pursue " if it took all summer," and every 
reverse to his arms was made the occasion for a fresh 
demand for peace without emancipation, that President 
Lincoln did me the honor to invite me to the Executive 
Mansion for a conference on the situation. I need not 
say I went most gladly. The main subject on which he 
wished to confer with me was as to the means most 
desirable to be employed outside the army to induce the 
slaves in the rebel States to come within the Federal 
lines. The increasing opposition to the war, in the 
North, and the mad cry against it, because it was being 
made an abolition war, alarmed Mr. Lincoln, and made 
him apprehensive that a peace might be forced upon him 
which would leave still in slavery all who had not come 
within our lines. What he wanted was to make his pro- 


clamation as effective as possible in the event of such a 
peace. He said, in a regretful tone, " The slaves are not 
coming so rapidly and so numerously to us as I had 
hoped." I replied that the slaveholders knew how to 
keep such things from their slaves, and probably very 
few knew of his proclamation. " Well," he said, " I want 
you to set about devising some means of making them 
acquainted with it, and for bringing them into our lines." 
He spoke with great earnestness and much solicitude, and 
seemed troubled by the attitude of Mr. Greeley, and the 
growing impatience there was being manifested through 
the North at the war. He said he was being accused of 
protracting the war beyond its legitimate object, and of 
failing to make peace when he might have done so to 
advantage. He was afraid of what might come of all 
these complaints, but was persuaded that no solid and 
lasting peace could come short of absolute submission on 
the part of the rebels, and he was not for giving them 
rest by futile conferences at Niagara Falls, or elsewhere, 
with unauthorized persons. He saw the danger of pre- 
mature peace, and, like a thoughtful and sagacious man 
as he was, he wished to provide means of rendering such 
consummation as harmless as possible. I was the more 
impressed by this benevolent consideration because he 
before said, in answer to the peace clamor, that his object 
was to save the Union, and to do so with or without slav- 
ery. What he said on this day showed a deeper moral 
conviction against slavery than I had ever seen before in 
anything spoken or written by him. I listened with the 
deepest interest and profoundest satisfaction, and, at his 
suggestion, agreed to undertake the organizing a band of 
scouts, composed of colored men, whose business should 
be somewhat after the original plan of John Brown, to go 
into the rebel Slates, beyond the lines of our armies, and 
carry the news of emancipation, and urge the slaves to 
come within our boundaries. 


This plan, however, was very soon rendered unneces- 
sary by the success of the war in the Wilderness and 
elsewliere, and by its termination in the complete aboli- 
tion of slavery. 

I refer to this conversation because I think it is evi- 
dence conclusive on Mr. Lincoln's part that the proclama- 
tion, so far at least as he was concerned, was not effected 
merely as a " necessity."^ 

An incident occurred during this interview which illus- 
trates the character of this great man, though the men- 
tion of it may savor a little of vanity on my part. While 
in conversation with him his Secretary twice announced 
" Governor Buckingham of Connecticut," one of the 
noblest and most patriotic of the loyal governors. 
Mr. Lincoln said, " Tell Governor Buckingham to wait, 
for I want to have a long talk with my friend Frederick 
Douglass." I interposed, and begged him to see the 
Governor at once, as I could wait; but no, he persisted 
he wanted to talk with me, and Governor Buckingham 
could wait. This was probably the first time in the his- 
tory of this Republic when its chief magistrate found 
occasion or disposition to exercise such an act of impar- 
tiality between persons so widely different in their "posi- 
tions and supposed claims upon his attention. From the 
manner of the Governor, when he was finally admitted, I 
inferred that he was as well satisfied with what Mr. Lin- 
coln had done, or had omitted to do, as I was. 

I have often said elsewhere what I wish to repeat here, 
that Mr. Lincoln was not only a great President, but a 
GREAT MAN — too great to be small in anything. In his 
company I was never in any way reminded of my humble 
origin, or of my unpopular color. While I am, as it may 
seem, bragging of the kind consideration which I have 
reason to believe that Mr. Lincoln entertained towards 
me, I may mention one thing more. At the door of my 


friend John A. Gray, where I was stopping in Washing- 
ton, I found one afternoon the carriage of Secretary Dole, 
and a messenger from President Lincoln with an invita- 
tion for me to take tea with him at the Soldiers' Home, 
where he then passed his nights, riding out after the 
business of the day was over at the Executive Mansion. 
Unfortunately, I had an engagement to speak that even- 
ing, and having made it one of the rules of my conduct 
in life never to break an engagement if possible to keep 
it, I felt obliged to decline the honor. I have often 
regretted that I did not make this an exception to my 
general rule. Could I have known that no such oppor- 
tunity could come to me again, I should have justified 
myself in disappointing a large audience for the sake of 
such a visit with Abraham Lincoln. 

It is due perhaps to myself to say here that I did not 
take Mr. Lincoln's attentions as due to my merits or 
personal qualities. While I have no doubt that Messrs. 
Seward and Chase had spoken well of me to him, and the 
fact of my having been a slave, and gained my freedom, 
and of having picked up some sort of an education, and 
being in some sense a " self-made man," and having made 
myself useful as an advocate of the claims of my people, 
gave me favor in his eyes ; yet I am quite sure that the 
main thing which gave me consideration with him was 
my well-known relation to the colored people of the 
Kepublic, and especially the help which that relation 
enabled me to give to the work of suppressing the rebel- 
lion and of placing the Union on a firmer basis than it 
ever had or could have sustained in the days of slavery. 

So long as there was any hope whatsoever of the suc- 
cess of Rebellion, there was of course a corresponding 
fear that a new lease of life would be granted to slavery. 
The proclamation of Fremont in Missouri, the letter of 
Phelps in the Department of the Gulf, the enlistment of 


colored troops by Gen. Hunter, the " Contraband " letter 
of Gen. B. F. Butler, the soldierly qualities surprisingly 
displayed by colored soldiers in the terrific battles of 
Port Hudson, Yicksburg, Morris Island, and elsewhere, 
the Emancipation proclamation by Abraham Lincoln, had 
given slavery many and deadly wounds, yet it was in 
fact oidy wounded and crippled, not disabled and killed. 
With this condition of national affairs came the sum- 
mer of 1864, and with it the revived Democratic party 
with the story in its mouth that the war was a failure, 
and with it Gen. George B. McClellan, the greatest failure 
of the war, as its candidate for the presidency. It is 
needless to say that the success of such a party, on such a 
platform, with such a candidate, at such a time, would 
have been a fatal calamity. All that had been done 
toward suppressing the rebellion and abolishing slavery 
would have proved of no avail, and the final settlement 
between the two sections of the Republic touching slavery 
and the right of secession would have been left to tear and 
rend the country again dt no distant future. 

It was said that this Democratic party, which under 
Mr. Buchanan had betrayed the government into the 
hands of secession and treason, was the only party which 
could restore the country to peace and union. No doubt 
it would have " patched up " a peace, but it would have 
been a peace more to be dreaded than war. So at least I 
felt and worked. When we were thus asked to exchange 
Abraham Lincoln for McClellan — a successful Union 
President for an unsuccessful Union general — a party 
earnestly endeavoring to save the Union, torn and rent 
by a gigantic rebellion, I thought with Mr. Lincoln that it 
was not wise to " swap horses while crossing a stream." 
Regarding, as I did, the continuance of the war to 
the complete suppression of the rebellion and the reten- 
tion in office of President Lincoln as essential to the total 

Lincoln's re-election. 439 

destruction of slavery, I certainly exerted myself to the 
uttermost in my small way to secure his reelection. This 
most important object was not attained, however, by 
speeches, letters, or other electioneering appliances. The 
staggering blows dealt upon the rebellion that year 
by the armies under Grant and Sherman, and his own 
great character, ground all opposition to dust and made 
his election sure even before the question reached the 
polls. Since William the Silent, who was the soul of the 
mighty war for religious liberty against Spain and the 
Spanish inquisition, no leader of men has been loved and 
trusted in such generous measure as Abraham Lincoln. 
His election silenced in a good degree the discontent felt 
at the length of the war, and the complaints of its being 
an abolition war. Every victory of our arms on flood and 
field was a rebuke to McClellan and the Democratic 
party, and an indorsement of Abraham Lincoln for Presi- 
dent and his new policy. It was my good fortune to be 
present at his inauguration in March, and to hear on that 
occasion his remarkable inaugural address. On the night 
previous I took tea with Chief Justice Chase and assisted 
his beloved daughter, Mrs. Sprague, in placing over 
her honored father's shoulders the new robe then being 
made, in which he was to administer the oath of office to 
tlie reelected President. There was a dignity and gran- 
deur about the Chief Justice which marked him as one 
born great. He had known me in early anti-slavery days, 
and had conquered his race-prejudice, if he ever had any ; 
at any rate, he had welcomed me to his home and his 
table when to do so was a strange thing in Washington, 
and the fact was by no means an insignificant one. 

The inauguration, like the election, was a most import- 
ant event. Four years before, after Mr. Lincoln's first 
election, the pro-slavery spirit determined against his in- 
auguration, and it no doubt would have accomplished its 

440 Lincoln's inauguration. 

purpose had he attempted to pass openly and recognized 
through Baltimore. There was murder in tli.e air then, 
and there was murder in the air now. His first inaugu- 
ration arrested the fall of the Republic, and the second 
was to restore it to enduring foundations. At the time of 
the second inauguration the rebellion was apparently vig- 
orous, defiant, and formidable, but in reality, weak, de- 
jected, and desperate. It had reached that verge of 
madness when it had called upon the negro for help to 
fight against the freedom which he so longed to find, for 
the bondage he would escape — against Lincoln the eman- 
cipator for Davis the enslaver. Blit desperation discards 
logic as well as law, and the South was desperate. Sher- 
man was marching to the sea, and Virginia with its rebel 
capital was in the firm grasp of Ulysses S. Grant. To 
those who knew the situation it was evident that unless 
some startling change was made the Confederacy had but 
a short time to live, and that time full of misery. This 
condition of things made the air at Washington dark and 
lowering. The friends of the Confederate cause here 
were neither few nor insignificant. They were among 
the rich and influential. A wink or a nod from such men 
might unchain the hand of violence and set order and 
law at defiance. To those who saw beneath the surface it 
was clearly perceived that there was danger abroad, and 
as the procession passed down Pennsylvania avenue I for 
one felt an instinctive apprehension that at any moment a 
shot from some assassin in the crowd might end the glit- 
tering pageant and throw the country into the depths of 
anarchy. I did not then know what has since become 
history, that the plot was already formed and its execution 
contemplated for that very day, which, though several 
weeks delayed, at last accomplished its deadly work. 
Eeaching the Capitol,! took my place in the crowd where 
I could seethe presidential procession as it came upon the 


east portico, and where I could hear and see all that took 
place. There was no such throng as that which celebra- 
ted the inauguration of President Garfield nor that of 
President Rutherford B. Hayes. The whole proceeding 
was wonderfully quiet, earnest, and solemn. From the 
oath as administered by Chief Justice Cliase to the brief 
but weighty address delivered by Mr. Lincoln, there was a 
leaden stillness about the crowd. The address sounded 
more like a sermon than a state paper. In the fewest 
words possible he referred to the condition of the country 
four years before on his first accession to the presidency, 
to the causes of the war, and the reasons on both 
sides for which it had been waged. " Neither party," he 
said, " expected for the war the magnitude or the duration 
which it had already attained. Neither anticipated that 
the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before 
the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an 
easier triumph and a result less fundamental and astound- 
ing." Then in a few short sentences admitting the con- 
viction that slavery had been the "offense which in 
the providence of God must needs come, and the war as 
the woe due to those by whom the offense came," he asks 
if there can be " discerned in this any departure from 
those Divine attributes which the believers in a loving 
God always ascribe to him ? Fondly do we hope," he 
continued, "fervently do we pray, that this mighty 
scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet if God wills 
that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bond- 
man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil 
shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the 
lash shall be paid for by another drawn with the sword, 
as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be 
said, ' The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous 

" With malice toward none, with charity for all, with 

442 PRESIDENT Lincoln's address. 

firmness in the riglit as God gives us to see the right, let 
us strive to finish the work we are in, to bind up the 
nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the 
battle, and for his widow and his orphans, to do all which 
may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among 
ourselves and with all nations." 

I know not how many times and before how many peo- 
ple I have quoted these solemn words of our martyred 
President. They struck me at the time, and have seemed 
to me ever since to contain more vital substance than I 
have ever seen compressed in a space so narrow ; yet on 
this memorable occasion, when I clapped my hands in 
gladness and thanksgiving at their utterance, I saw in the 
faces of many about me expressions of widely different 

On this inauguration day, while waiting for the opening 
of the ceremonies, I made a discovery in regard to the 
Vice President, Andrew Johnson. There are moments 
in the lives of most men when the doors of their souls are 
open, and unconsciously to themselves their true charac- 
ters may be read by the observant eye. It was at such 
an instant I caught a glimpse of the real nature of 
this man which all subsequent developments proved true. 
I was standing in the crowd by the side of Mrs. Thomas 
J. Dorsey, when Mr. Lincoln touched Mr. Johnson and 
pointed me out to him. The first expression which came 
to his face, and which I think was the true index of his 
heart, was one of bitter contempt and aversion. Seeing 
that I observed him, he tried to assume a more friendly 
appearance, but it was too late ; it is useless to close the 
door when all within has been seen. His first glance was 
the frown of the man ; the second was the bland and 
sickly smile of the demagogue. I turned to Mrs. Dorsey 
and said, "Whatever Andrew Johnson may be, he cer- 
tainly is no friend of our race." 


No stronger contrast could well be presented between 
two men than between President Lincoln and Vice-Presi- 
dent Johnson on this day. Mr. Lincoln was like one who 
was treading the hard and thorny path of duty and self- 
denial; Mr. Johnson was like one just from a drunken 
debauch. The face of the one was full of manly hu- 
mility, although at the topmost height of power and 
pride, the other was full of pomp and swaggering vanity. 
The fact was, though it was yet early in the day, Mr. 
Johnson was drunk. 

In the evening of the day of the inauguration, another 
new experience awaited me. The usual reception was 
given at the executive mansion, and though no colored 
persons had ever ventured to present themselves on such 
occasions, it seemed now that freedom had become the 
law of 'the republic, now that colored men were on the 
battle-field mingling their blood with that of white men 
in one common effort to save the country, it was not too 
great an assumption for a colored man to offer his con- 
gratulations to the President with those of other citizens. 
I decided to go, and sought in vain for some one of my 
own color to accompany me. It is never an agreeable 
experience to go where there can be any doubt of wel- 
come, and my colored friends had too often realized dis- 
comfiture from this cause to be willing to subject them- 
'selves to such unhappiness ; they wished me to go, as my 
New England colored friends in the long-ago liked very 
well to have me take passage on the first-class cars, and be 
hauled out and pounded by rough-handed brakemen, to 
make way for them. It was plain, then, that some one 
must lead the way, and that if the colored man would 
have his rights, he must take them ; and now, though it 
was plainly quite the thing for me to attend President 
Lincoln's reception, " they all with one accord began to 
make excuse." It was finally arranged that Mrs. Dorsey 
should bear me company, so together we joined in the 


grand procession of citizens from all parts of the country, 
and moved slowly towards the executive mansion. I had 
for some time looked upon myself as a man, but now in 
this multitude of the 61ite of the land, I felt myself a man 
among men. I regret to be obliged to say, however, that 
this comfortable assurance was not of long duration, for 
on reaching the door, two policemen stationed there took 
me rudely by the arm and ordered me to stand back, for 
their directions were to admit no persons of my color. 
The reader need not be told that this was a disagreeable 
set-back. But once in the battle, I did not think it well 
to submit to repulse. I told the officers I ,was quite sure 
there must be some mistake, for no such order could have 
emanated from President Lincoln ; and if he knew I was 
at the door he would desire my admission. They then, 
to put an end to the parley, as I suppose, for we were 
obstructing the doorway, and were not easily pushed 
aside, assumed an air of politeness, and offered to con- 
duct me in. We followed their lead, and soon found our- 
selves walking some planks out of a window, which had 
been arranged as a temporary passage for the exit of 
visitors. We halted so soon as we saw the trick, and I 
said to the officers: "You have deceived me. I shall not 
go out of this building till I see President Lincoln." At 
this moment a gentleman who was passing in recognized 
me, and I said to him : " Be so kind as to say to Mr! 
Lincoln that Frederick Douglass is detained by officers at 
the door." It was not long before Mrs. Dorsey and I 
walked into the spacious East Room, amid a scene of 
elegance such as in this country I had never witnessed 
before. Like a mountain pine high above all others, Mr. 
Lincoln stood, in his grand simplicity, and home-like heanty. 
Recognizing me, even before I reached him, he exclaimed, 
so that all around could hear him, " Here comes my 
friend Douglass." Taking me by the hand, he said, " I 

author's opinion of the address. 445 

am glad to see you. I saw you in the crowd to-day, list- 
ening to my inaugural address ; how did you like it ? " I 
said, " Mr. Lincoln, I must not detain you with my poor 
opinion, when there are thousands waiting to shake 
hands with you." "No, no," he said, "you must stop a 
little, Douglass ; there is no man in the country whose 
opinion I value more than yours. I want to know what 
you think of it?" I replied, "Mr. Lincoln, that was a 
sacred effort." " I am glad you liked it ! " he said ; and I 
passed on, feeling that any man, however distinguished, 
might well regard himself honored by such expressions, 
from such a man. 

It came out that the officers at the White House had 
received no orders from Mr. Lincoln, or from any one 
else. They were simply complying with an old custom, 
the outgrowth of slavery, as dogs will sometimes rub 
their necks, long after their collars are removed, thinking 
they are still there. My colored friends were well pleased 
with what had seemed to them a doubtful experiment, 
and I believe were encouraged by its success to follow my 
example. I have found in my experience that the way to 
break down an unreasonable custom, is to contradict it in 
practice. To be sure in pursuing this course I have had 
to contend not merely with the white race, but with the 
black. The one has condemned me for my presumption 
iu daring to associate with them, and the other for push- 
ing myself where they take it for granted I am not 
wanted. I am pained to think that the latter objection 
springs largely from a consciousness' of inferiority, for as 
colors alone can have nothing against each other, and 
the conditions of human association are founded upon 
character rather than color, and character depends upon 
mind and morals, there can be nothing blameworthy in 
people thus equal in meeting each other on the plane of 
civil or social rights. 


A series of important events followed soon after the 
second inauguration of Mr. Lincoln, conspicuous amongst 
Avliich was the fall of Richmond. The strongest endeavor, 
and the best generalship of the Rebellion, was employed 
to hold that place, and when it fell the pride, prestige, 
and power of the rebellion fell with it, never to rise 
again. The news of this great event found me again in 
Boston. The enthusiasm of that loyal city cannot be 
easily described. As usual when anything touches the 
great heart of Boston, Faneuil Hall became vocal and 
eloquent. This hall is an immense building, and its his- 
tory is correspondingly great. It has been the theater of 
much patriotic declamation from the days of the " Revo- 
lution," and before ; as it has since my day been the 
scene where the strongest efforts of the most popular 
orators of Massachusetts have been made. Here Webster, 
the great " expounder," addressed the " sea of upturned 
faces." Here Choate, the wonderful Boston barrister, by 
his weird, electric eloquence, enchained his thousands ; here 
Everett charmed with his classic periods the flower of 
Boston aristocracy ; and here, too, Charles Sumner, Horace 
Mann, John A. Andrew, and Wendell Phillips, the last 
equal to most, and superior to many, have for forty years 
spoken their great words of justice, liberty, and humanity, 
sometimes in the calm and sunshine of unruffled peace, 
but oftener in the tempest and whirlwind of mobocratic 
violence. It was here that Mr. Phillips made his famous 
speech in denunciation of the murder of Elijah P. Lovejoy 
in 1837, which changed the whole current of his life, and 
made him pre-eminently the leader of anti-slavery thought 
in New England. Here, too, Theodore Parker, whose early 
death not only Boston, but the lovers of liberty through- 
out the world, still mourn, gave utterance to his deep and 
life-giving thoughts in words of fullness and power. But I 
set out to speak of the meeting which was held there, in 


celebration of the fall of Richmond, for it was a meeting as 
remarkable for its composition as for its occasion. Among 
speakers by whom it was addressed, and who gave voice to 
the patriotic sentiments which filled and overflowed each 
loyal heart, were Hon. Henry Wilson, and Hon. Robert 
C. Winthrop. It would be difficult to find two public men 
more distinctly opposite than these. If any one may prop- 
erly boast an aristocratic descent, or if there be any 
value or worth in that boast, Robert C. Winthrop may, 
without undue presumption, avail himself of it. He was 
born in the midst of wealth and luxury, and never felt 
the flint of hardship or the grip of poverty. Just the 
opposite to this was the experience of Henry Wilson. 
The son of common people, wealth and education had 
done little for him ; but he had in him a true heart, and 
a world of common sense ; and these, with industry, good 
habits, and perseverance, had carried him further and 
lifted him higher than the brilliant man with whom he 
formed such striking contrast. Winthrop, before the 
war, like many others of his class, had resisted the anti- 
slavery current of his state, had sided largely with the 
demands of the slave power, had abandoned many of his 
old Whig friends, when they went for free soil and free 
men in 1848, and gone into the Democratic party. 

During the war he was too good to be a rebel sympa- 
thizer, and not quite good enough to become as Wilson 
was — a power in the union cause. Wilson had risen to 
eminence by his devotion to liberal ideas, while Win- 
throp had sunken almost to obscurity from his indiffer- 
ence to such ideas. But now either himself or his 
friends, most likely the latter, thought that the time had 
come when some word implying interest in the loyal 
cause should fall from his lips. It was not so much the 
need of the union, as the need of himself, that he should 
speak ; the time when the union needed him, and all 


others, was when the slave-holding rebellion raised its 
defiant head, not when, as now, that head was in the dust 
and ashes of defeat and destruction. But the beloved 
Winthrop, the proud representative of what Daniel Web- 
ster once called the " solid men of Boston," had great 
need to speak now. It had been no fault of the loyal 
cause that he had not spoken sooner. Its " gates, like 
those of Heaven, stood open night and day." If he did 
not come in, it was his own fault. Hcgiment after regi- 
ment, brigade after brigade, had passed over Boston Com- 
mon to endure the perils and hardships of war; Governor 
Andrew had poured out his soul, had exhausted his won- 
derful powers of speech in patriotic words to the brave 
departing sons of old Massachusetts, and a word from 
Winthrop would have gone far to nerve up those young 
soldiers going forth to lay down their lives for the life of 
the republic ; but no word came.* Yet now, in the last 
quarter of the eleventh hour, when the day's work was 
nearly done, Robert C. Winthrop was seen standing upon 
the same platform with the veteran Henry Wilson. He 
was there in all his native grace and dignity, elegantly 
and aristocratically clothed, his whole bearing marking 
his social sphere as widely different from many present. 
Happily for his good name, and for those who shall bear 
it when he is no longer among the living, that he was 
found, even at the last hour, in the right place — in old 
Faneuil Hall — side by side with plain Henry Wilson — the 
shoemaker senator. But this was not the only contrast 
on that platform on that day. It was my strange for- 
tune to follow Mr. Winthrop on this interesting occasion. 
I remember him as the guest of John H. Clifford of New 
Bedford, afterwards Governor of Massachusetts, when 
twenty-five years before, I had been only a few months 
from slavery — I was behind his chair as waiter, and was 

* See Note on page 452. 


even then charmed by his elegant conversation — and now, 
after this lapse of time, I found myself no longer behind 
the chair of this princely man, but announced to succeed 
liim in the order of speakers, before that brilliant audi- 
ence. I was not insensible to the contrast in our history 
and positions, and was curious to observe if it affected 
him, and how. To his credit, I am happy to say he bore 
himself grandly throughout. His speech was fully up to 
the enthusiasm of the hour, and the great audience 
greeted his utterances with merited applause. I need 
not speak of the speeches of Henry Wilson and others, or 
of my own. The meeting was every way a remarkable 
expression of popular feeling, created by a great and im- 
portant event. 

After the fall of Richmond the collapse of the rebellion 
was not long delayed, though it did not perish without 
adding to its long list of atrocities one which sent a thrill 
of horror throughout the civilized world, in the assassina- 
tion of Abraham Lincoln ; a man so amiable, so kind, 
humane, and honest, that one is at a loss to know how he 
could have had an enemy on earth. The details of his 
" taking off " are too familiar to be more than mentioned 
here. The recently-attempted assassination of James 
Abraham Garfield has made us all too painfully familiar 
with the shock and sensation produced by the hell-black 
crime to make any description necessary. The curious 
will note that the Christian name of both men is the 
same, and that both were remarkable for their kind quali- 
ties and for having risen by their own energies from 
among the people, and that both were victims of assassins 
at the beginning of a presidential term. 

Mr. Lincoln had reason to look forward to a peaceful 
and happy term of office. To all appearance, we were 
on the eve of a restoration of the union, and a solid and 
lasting peace. He had served one term as President of 


tlie Disunited States, he was now for tlie first time to be 
President of the United States. Heavy had been his bur- 
den, hard had been his toil, bitter had been his trials, 
and terrible had been his anxiety ; but the future seemed 
now bright and full of hope. Richmond had fallen. Grant 
had General Lee and the army of Virginia firmly in his 
clutch ; Sherman had fought and found his way from the 
banks of the great river to the shores of the sea, leaving 
the two ends of the rebellion squirming and twisting in 
agony, like the severed parts of a serpent, doomed to 
inevitable death ; and now there was but a little time 
longer for the good President to bear his burden, and be 
the target of reproach. His accusers, in w^hose opinion 
he was always too fast or too slow, too weak or too 
strong, too conciliatory or too aggressive, would soon 
become his admirers ; it was soon to be seen that he had 
conducted the affairs of the nation with singular wisdom, 
and with absolute fidelity to the great trust confided in 
him. A country redeemed and regenerated from the 
foulest crime against human nature that ever saw the 
sun! What a bright vision of peace, prosperity, and 
happiness must have come to that tired and over-worked 
brain, and weary spirit. Men used to talk of his jokes, 
and he no doubt indulged in them ; but I seemed never to 
have the faculty of calling them to the surface. I saw 
him oftener than many who have reported him, but I 
never saw any levity in him. He always impressed me 
as a strong, earnest man, having no time or disposition 
to trifle ; grappling with all his might the work he had in 
hand. The expression of his face was a blending of 
suffering with patience and fortitude. Men called him 
homely, and homely he was ; but it was manifestly a 
human homeliness, for there was nothing of the tiger or 
other wild animal about him. His eyes had in them the 
tenderness of motherhood, and his mouth and other fea- 

DR. Robinson's speech. 451 

tures the highest perfection of a genuine manhood. His 
picture, now before me in my study, by Marshall, corres- 
ponds well with the impression I have of him. But, 
alas ! what are all good and great qualities ; what are hu- 
man hopes and human happiness to the revengeful hand 
of an assassin ? What are sweet dreams of peace ; what 
are visions of the future ? A simple leaden bullet, and 
a few grains of powder, in the shortest limit of time, are 
sufficient to blast and ruin all that is precious in human 
existence, not alone of the murdered, but of the mur- 
derer. I write this in the deep gloom flung over my 
spirit by the cruel, wanton, and cold-blooded attempted 
assassination of Abraham Garfield, as well as that of 
Abraham Lincoln. 

I was in Rochester, N. Y., where I then resided, when 
news of the death of Mr. Lincoln was received. Our 
citizens, not knowing what else to do in the agony of the 
hour, betook themselves to the city hall. Though all 
hearts aclied for utterance, few felt like speaking. We 
were stunned and overwhelmed by a crime and calamity 
hitherto unknown to our country and our government. 
The hour was hardly one for speech, for no speech could 
rise to the level of feeling. Doctor Robinson, then 
of Rochester University, but now of Brown University, 
Providence, R. I., was prevailed upon to take the stand, 
and made one of the most touching and eloquent speeches 
I ever heard. At the close of his address, I was called 
upon, and spoke out of the fullness of my heart, and, 
happily, I gave expression to so much of the soul of the 
people present that my voice was several times utterly 
silenced by the sympathetic tumult of the great audience. 
I had resided long in Rochester, and had made many 
speeches there which had more or less touched the hearts 
of my hearers, but never till this day was I brought into 
such close accord with them. We shared in common a 


terrible calamity, and this "touch of nature made us" 
more than countrymen, it made us "kin."* 

* I sincerely regret that I have done Mr. Winthrop great injustice. 
This Faneuil Hall speech of his was not the first manifestation of his 
zealous interest in the loyal cause during the late war. While it is 
quite true that Mr. Winthrop was strongly against the anti-slavery 
movement at the North, his addresses and speeches delivered during 
the war, as they have come to my knowledge since writing the fore- 
going chapter, prove him to have been among the most earnest in his 
support of the National Government in its efforts to suppress the 

rebellion and to restore the Union. 

Frederick Douglass. 



Satisfaction and anxiety — New tields of labor opening — Lyceums and 
colleges soliciting addresses — Literary attractions — Pecuniary gain — 
Still pleading for human rights — President Andy Johnson — Colored 
delegation — Their reply to him — National Loyalist Convention, 
1866, and its procession — Not wanted — Meeting with an old friend — 
Joy and surprise — The old master's welcome, and Miss Amanda's 
friendship — Enfranchisement discussed — Its accomplishment — The 
negro a citizen. 

WHEN the war for the Union was substantially 
ended, and peace had dawned upon the land, as 
was the case almost immediately after the tragic death of 
President Lincoln ; when the gigantic system of Ameri- 
can slavery which had defied the march of time, resisted 
all the appeals and arguments of the abolitionists, and 
the humane testimonies of good men of every generation 
during two hundred and fifty years, was finally abolished 
and forever prohibited by the organic law of the land, a 
strange and, perhaps, perverse feeling came over me. 
My great and exceeding joy over these stupendous 
achievements, especially over the abolition of slavery 
(which had been the deepest desire and the great labor 
of my life), was slightly tinged with a feeling of sadness. 
I felt I had reached the end of the noblest and best 
part of my life ; my school was broken up, my church 
disbanded, and the beloved congregation dispersed, never 
to come together again. The anti-slavery platform had 
performed its work, and my voice was no longer needed. 
" Othello's occupation was gone." The great happiness 
of meeting with my fellow-workers was now to be among 
19 r453) 


the things of memory. Then, too, some thought of my 
personal future came in. Like Daniel Webster, when 
asked by liis friends to leave John Tyler's cabinet, I 
naturally inquired : "Where shall I go?" I was still in 
the midst of my years, and had something of life l)efore 
me, and as the minister (urged by my old friend George 
Eradburn to preach anti-slavery, wlien to do so was 
unpopular) said, " It is necessary for ministers to live," 
I felt it was necessary for me to live, and to live lionestly. 
But where should I go, and what should I do ? I could 
not now take hold of life as I did when I first landed in 
New Bedford, twenty-five years before ; I could not go to 
the wharf of either Gideon or George Howland, to Rich- 
mond's brass foundry, or Richetson's candle and oil 
works, load and unload vessels, or even ask Governor 
Clifford for a place as a servant. Rolling oil-casks and 
shoveling coal were all well enough when I was younger, 
immediately after getting out of slavery. Doing this was 
a step up, rather than a step down ; but all these avoca- 
tions had had their day for me, and I had had my day 
for them. My public life and labors had unfitted me for 
the pursuits of my earlier years, and yet had not prepared 
me for more congenial and higher employment. Outside 
the question of slavery my thoughts had not been much 
directed, and 1 could hardly hope to make myself useful 
in any other cause than that to which I had given the 
best twenty-five years of my life. A man in the situation 
I found myself has not only to divest himself of the old, 
which is never easily done, but to adjust himself to the 
new, which is still more difficult. Delivering lectures 
under various names, John B. Gough says, " Whatever 
may be the title, my lecture is always on Temperance " ; 
and such is apt to be the case with any man who has 
devoted his time and thoughts to one subject for any 
considerable length of time. But what should I do, was 


the question. I had a few thousand dollars (a great con- 
venience, and one not generally so highly prized by my 
people as it ought to be) saved from the sale of " My 
Bondage and My Freedom," and the proceeds of my lec- 
tures at home and abroad, and with this sum I thought 
of following the noble example of my old friends Stephen 
and Abby Kelley Foster, purchase a little farm and settle 
myself down to earn an honest living by tilling the soil. 
My children were all grown up, and ought to be able to 
take care of themselves. This question, however, was 
soon decided for me. I had after all acquired (a very 
unusual thing) a little more knowledge and aptitude 
fitting me for the new condition of things than I knew, 
and had a deeper hold upon public attention than I had 
supposed. Invitations began to pour in upon me from 
colleges, lyceums, and literary societies, offering me one 
hundred, and even two hundred dollars for a single 

I had, some time before, prepared a lecture on " Self- 
made Men," and also one upon Ethnology, with special 
reference to Africa. The latter had cost me much labor, 
though, as I now look back upon it, it was a very defect- 
ive production. I wrote it at the instance of my friend 
Doctor M. B. Anderson, President of Rochester Univer- 
sity, himself a distinguished ethnologist, a deep thinker 
and scholar. I had been invited by one of the literary 
societies of Western Reserve College (then at Hudson, 
but recently removed to Cleveland, Ohio), to address it 
on Commencement day ; and never having spoken on 
such an occasion, never, indeed, having been myself 
inside of a school-house for the purpose of an education, 
I hesitated about accepting the invitation, and finally 
called upon Prof. Henry Wayland, son of the great Doc- 
tor Wayland of Brown University, and on Doctor Ander- 
son, and asked their advice whether I ought to accept. 


Both gentlemen advised me to do so. They knew me, 
and evidently thought well of my ability. But the puz- 
zling question now was, what shall I say if I do go there ? 
It won't do to give them an old-fashioned anti-slavery 
discourse. (I learned afterwards that such a discourse 
was precisely what they needed, though not what they 
wished ; for the faculty, including the President, was in 
great distress because I, a colored man, had been invited, 
and because of the reproach this circumstance might 
bring upon the College.) But what shall I talk about ? 
became the difficult question. I finally hit upon the one 
before mentioned. I had read, when in England a few 
years before, with great interest, parts of Doctor Pritch- 
ard's " Natural History of Man," a large volume marvel- 
ousl}' calm and philosophical in its discussion of the 
science of the origin of the races, and was thus in the line 
of my then convictions. I sought this valuable book at 
once in our bookstores, but could not obtain it anywhere 
in this country. I sent to England, where I paid the sum 
of seven and a half dollars for it. In addition to this 
valuable work President Anderson kindly gave me a little 
book entitled "Man and His Migrations," by Dr. R. G-. 
Latham, and loaned me the large work of Dr. Morton, the 
famous archaeologist, and that of Messrs. Nott and Glid- 
den, the latter written evidently to degrade the Negro and 
support the then-prevalent Calhoun doctrine of the right- 
fulness of slavery. With these books and occasional 
suggestions from Dr. Anderson and Prof. Wayland I set 
about preparing my commencement address. For many 
days and nights I toiled, and succeeded at last in getting 
something together in due form. Written orations had 
not been in my line. I had usually depended upon 
my unsystematized knowledge and the inspiration of the 
hour and the occasion, but I had now got the " scholar bee 
in my bonnet," and supposed that inasmuch as I was to 


speak to college professors and students I must at least 
make a show of some familiarity with letters. It proved, 
as to its immediate effect, a great mistake, for my care- 
fully-studied and written address, full of learned quota- 
tions, fell dead at my feet, while a few remarks I made 
extemporaneously at collation were enthusiastically re- 
ceived. Nevertheless, the reading and labor expended 
were of much value to me. They were needed steps 
preparatory to the work upon which I was about to enter. 
If they failed at the beginning, they helped to success in 
the end. My lecture on " The Races of Men " was seldom 
called for, but that on " Self-made Men" was in great de- 
mand, especially through the West. I found that the 
success of a lecturer depends more upon the quality of his 
stock in store than the amount. My friend Wendell 
Phillips (for such I esteem him), who has said more 
cheering words to me and in vindication of my race than 
any man now living, has delivered his famous lecture on 
the "Lost Arts " during the last forty years ; and I doubt 
if among all his lectures, and he has many, there is one in 
such requisition as this. When Daniel O'Connell was 
asked why he did not make a new speech he playfully re- 
plied that " it would take Ireland twenty years to learn 
his old ones." Upon some such consideration as this I 
adhered pretty closely to my old lecture on " Self-made 
Men," retouching and shading it a little from time to 
time as occasion seemed to require. 

Here, then, was a new vocation before me, full of advan- 
tages mentally and pecuniarily. When in the employ- 
ment of the American Anti-Slavery Society my salary was 
about four hundred and fifty dollars a year, and I felt I 
was well paid for my services ; but I could now make 
from fifty to a hundred dollars a night, and have the sat- 
isfaction, too, that I was in some small measure helping 
to lift my race into consideration, for no man who lives at 


all lives unto liimself — he cither helps or hinders all who 
are in any wise connected with him. I never rise to 
speak before an American audience without something of 
the feeling that my failure or success will bring blame or 
benefit to my whole race. But my activities were not 
now confined entirely to lectures before lyceums. Though 
slavery was abolished, the wrongs of my peo})le were not 
ended. Though they were not slaves, they were not yet 
quite free. No man can be truly free whose liberty is de- 
pendent upon the thought, feeling, and action of others, 
and w^ho has himself no means in his own hands for 
guarding, protecting, defending, and maintaining that lib- 
erty. Yet the Negro after his emancipation was precisely 
in this state of destitution. The law on the side of free- 
dom is of great advantage only where there is power 
to make that law respected. I know no class of my 
fellow-men, however just, enlightened, and humane, which 
can be wisely and safely trusted absolutely with the liber- 
ties of any other class. Protestants are excellent people, 
but it would not be wise for Catholics to depend entirely 
upon them to look after their rights and interests. Cath- 
olics are a pretty good sort of people (though there is 
a soul-shuddering history behind them), yet no enlightened 
Protestants would commit their liberty to their care and 
keeping. And yet the government had left the freedmen 
in a worse condition than either of these. It felt that it 
had done enough for him. It had made him free, and 
henceforth he must make his own way in the world, or, 
as the slang phrase has it, "root, pig, or die." Yet 
he had none of the conditions for self-preservation or self- 
protection. He was free from the individual master, but 
the slave of society. He had neither money, property, 
nor friends. He was free from the old plantation, but he 
had nothing but the dusty road under his feet. He was 
free from the old quarter that once gave him shelter, but 


a slave to the rains of summer and the frosts of winter. 
He was, in a Avord, literally turned loose, naked, hungry, 
and destitute, to the open sky. The first feeling toward 
him by the old master classes was full of bitterness 
and wrath. They resented his emancipation as an act of 
hostility toward them, and, since they could not punish 
the emancipator, they felt like punishing the object which 
that act had emancipated. Hence they drove him off the 
old plantation, and told him he was no longer wanted 
there. They not only hated him because he had been 
freed as a punishment to them, but because they felt that 
they had been robbed of his labor. An element of great- 
er bitterness still came into their hearts ; the freedman 
had been the friend of the government, and many of his 
class had borne arms against them during the war. The 
thought of paying cash for labor that they could formerly 
extort by the lash did not in any wise improve their dis- 
position to the emancipated slave, or improve his own 
condition. Now, since poverty has, and can have, no 
chance against wealth, the landless against the land- 
owner, the ignorant against the intelligent, the freedman 
was powerless. He had nothing left him but a slavery- 
distorted and diseased body, and lame and twisted limbs, 
,with which to fight the battle of life. I therefore soon found 
that the Negro had still a cause, and that he needed my 
voice and pen with others to plead for it. The American 
Anti-Slavery Society under the lead of Mr. Garrison had 
disbanded, its newspapers were discontinued, its agents 
were withdrawn from the field, and all systematic efforts 
by abolitionists were abandoned. Many of the society, 
Mr. Phillips and myself amongst the number, differed 
from Mr. Garrison as to the wisdom of this course. I 
felt that the work of the society was not done ; that 
it had not fulfilled its mission, which was not merely to 
emancipate, but to elevate the enslaved class. But 


against Mr. Garrison's leadership, and the surprise and 
joy occasioned by the emancipation, it was impossible to 
keep the association alive, and the cause of the freedmen 
was left mainly to individual effort and to hastily-extem- 
porized societies of an ephemeral character; brought 
together under benevolent impulse, but having no history 
behind them, and being new to the work, they were not as 
effective for good as the old society would have been had 
it followed up its work and kept its old instrumentalities 
in operation. 

From the first I saw no chance of bettering the condi- 
tion of the freedman until he should cease to be merely a 
freedman and should become a citizen. I insisted that 
there was no safety for him or for anybody else in America 
outside the American government; that to guard, pro- 
tect, and maintain l)is liberty the freedman should have 
the ballot ; that the liberties of the American people 
were dependent upon the ballot-box, the jury-box, and the 
cartridge-box ; that without these no class of people could 
live and flourish in this country ; and this was now the 
word for the hour with me, and the word to which 
the people of the North willingly listened when I spoke. 
Hence, regarding as I did the elective franchise as the 
one great power by which all civil rights are obtained, en- 
joyed, and maintained under our form of government, and 
the one without which freedom to any class is delusive if 
not impossible, I set myself to work with whatever force 
and energy I possessed to secure this power for the 
recently-emancipated millions. 

The demand for the ballot was such a vast advance 
upon the former objects proclaimed by the friends of the 
colored race, that it startled and struck men as prepos- 
terous and wholly inadmissible. Anti-slavery men them- 
selves were not united as to the wisdom of such demand. 
Mr. Garrison himself, though foremost for the abolition 



of slavery, was not yet quite ready to join this advanced 
movement. In this respect he was in the rear of Mr. 
Phillips, who saw not only the justice, but the wisdom 
and necessity of the measure. To his credit it may be 
said, that he gave the full strength of his character and 
eloquence to its adoption. While Mr. Garrison thought 
it too much to ask, Mr. Phillips thought it too little. 
While the one thought it might be postponed to the 
future, the other thought it ought to be done at once. 
But Mr. Garrison was not a man to lag far in the rear of 
truth and right, and he soon came to see with the rest 
of us that the ballot was essential to the freedom of the 
freedman. A man's head will not long remain wrong, 
when his heart is right. The applause awarded to Mr. 
Garrison by the conservatives, for his moderation both in 
respect of his views on this question, and the disband- 
ment of the American Anti-Slavery Society must have 
disturbed him. He was at any rate soon found on the 
right side of the suffrage question. 

The enfranchisement of the freedmen was resisted on 
many grounds, but mainly these two : first, the tendency 
of the measure to bring the freedmen into conflict with 
the old master-class, and the white people of the South 
generally. Secondly, their unfitness, by reason of their 
ignorance, servility, and degradation, to exercise so great 
a power as the ballot, over the destinies of this great 

These reasons against the measure which were supposed 
to be unanswerable, were in some sense the most powerful 
arguments in its favor. The argument that the possession 
of suffrage would be likely to bring the negro into 
conflict with the old master-class at the South, had its 
main force in the admission that the interests of the two 
classes antagonized each other and that the maintenance 
of the one would prove inimical to the other. It resolved 


itself into this, if the negro had the means of* protecting 
his civil rights, those who had formerly denied him these 
rights would be offended and make war upon him. Ex- 
perience has shown in a measure the correctness of this 
position. The old master was offended to find the negro 
whom he lately possessed the right to enslave and flog 
to toil, casting a ballot equal to his own, and resorted 
to all sorts of meanness, violence, and crime, to dispossess 
him of the enjoyment of this point of equality. In this 
respect the exercise of the right of suffrage by the negro 
has been attended with the evil, which the opponents of 
the measure predicted, and they could say " I've told you 
so," but immeasurably and intolerably greater would have 
been the evil consequences resulting from the denial to 
one class of this natural means of protection, and grant- 
ing it to the other, and hostile class. It would have been, 
to have committed the lamb to the care of the wolf — the 
arming of one class and disarming the other — protecting 
one interest, and destroying the other, making the rich 
strong, and the poor weak — the white man a tyrant, and 
the black man a slave. The very fact therefore that the 
old master-classes of the South felt that their interests 
were opposed to those of the freedmen, instead of being 
a reason against their enfranchisement, was the most 
powerful one in its favor. Until it shall be safe to leave 
the lamb in the hold of the lion, the laborer in the power 
of the capitalist, the poor in the hands of the rich, it will 
not be safe to leave a newly emancipated people com- 
pletely in the power of their former masters, especially 
when such masters have not ceased to be such from 
enlightened moral convictions but by irresistible force. 
Then on the part of the government itself, had it denied 
this great right to the freedmen, it would have been 
another proof that " Republics are ungrateful." It would 
have been rewarding its enemies, and punishing its 


friends — embracing its foes, and spurning its allies, — 
setting a premium on treason, and degrading loyalty. 
As to the second point, viz.: the negro's ignorance and 
degradation, there was no disputing either. It was the 
nature of slavery, from whose depths he had arisen, to 
make him so, and it would have kept it so. It was the 
policy of the system to keep him both ignorant and 
degraded, the better and more safely to defraud him of 
his hard earnings ; and this argument never staggered 
me. The ballot in the hands of the negro was necessary 
to open the door of the school-house, and to unlock the 
treasures of his knowledge to him. Granting all that was 
said of his ignorance, I used to say, " if the negro knows 
enough to fight for his country he knows enough to vote ; 
if he knows enough to pay taxes for the support of 
the government, he knows enough to vote ; if he knows 
as much when sober, as an Irishman knows when drunk, 
he knows enough to vote." 

And now while I am not blind to the evils which have 
thus far attended the enfranchisement of the colored 
people, I hold that the evils from which we escaped, and 
the good we have derived from that act, amply vindicate 
its wisdom. The evils it brought are in their nature 
temporary, and the good is permanent. The one is com- 
paratively small, the other absolutely great. The young 
child has staggered on his little legs, and he has some- 
times fallen and hurt his head in the fall, but then he has 
learned to walk. The boy in the water came near drown- 
ing, but then he has learned to swim. Great changes in 
the relations of mankind can never come, without evils 
analogous to those which have attended the emancipation 
and enfranchisement of the colored people of the United 
States. I am less amazed at these evils, than by the 
rapidity with which they are subsiding, and not more 
astonished at the facility with which the former slave has 


become a free man, than at the rapid adjustment of the 
master-class to the new situation. 

Unlike the movement for the abolition of slavery, the 
success of tlie effort for the enfranchisement of the 
freedmen was not long delayed. It is another illustra- 
tion of how any advance in pursuance of a right prin- 
ciple prepares and makes easy the way to another. The 
way of transgression is a bottomless pit, one step in that 
direction invites the next, and the end is never reached ; 
and it is the same with the path of righteous obedience. 
Two hundred years ago, the pious Doctor Godwin dared 
affirm that it was "not a sin to baptize a negro," and won 
for him the rite of baptism. It was a small concession 
to his manhood ; but it was strongly resisted by the slave- 
holders of Jamaica and Virginia. In this they were 
logical in their argument, but they were not logical in 
their object. They saw plainly that to concede the negro's 
right to baptism was to receive him into the Christian 
Church, and make him a brother in Christ ; and hence 
they opposed the first step sternly and bitterly. So long 
as they could keep him beyond the circle of human 
brotherhood, they could scourge him to toil, as a beast of 
burden, with a good Christian conscience, and without 
reproach. " What ! " said they, " baptize a negro ? pre- 
posterous ! " Nevertheless the negro was baptized and 
admitted to church fellowship ; and though for a long 
time his soul belonged to God, his body to his master, 
and he, poor fellow, had nothing left for himself, he is at 
last not only baptized, but emancipated and enfranchised. 

In this achievement, an interview with President 
Andrew Johnson, on the 7th of February, 1866, by a dele- 
gation consisting of George T. Downing, Lewis H. Doug- 
lass, Wm. E. Matthews, John Jones, John F. Cook, 
Joseph E, Otis, A. W. Ross, William Whipper, John M. 
Brown, Alexander Dunlop, and myself, will take its place 



in history as one of the first steps. What was said on 
that occasion brought the whole question virtually before 
the American people. Until that interview the country 
was not fully aware of the intentions and policy of Presi- 
dent Johnson on the subject of reconstruction, especially 
in respect of the newly emancipated class of the South. 
After having heard the brief addresses made to him by Mr. 
Downing and myself, he occupied at least three-quarters of 
an hour in what seemed a set speech, and refused to lis- 
ten to any reply on our part, although solicited to grant a 
few moments for that purpose. Seeing the advantage 
that Mr. Johnson would have over us in getting his speech 
paraded before the country in the morning papers, the 
members of the delegation met on the evening of that 
day, and instructed me to prepare a brief reply, which 
should go out to the country simultaneously with the Presi- 
dent's speech to us. Since this reply indicates the points 
of difference between the President and ourselves, I pro- 
duce it here as a part of the history of the times, it be- 
ing concurred in by all the members of the delegation. 

Both the speech and the reply were commented upon 
very extensively. 

Mr. President : In consideration of a delicate sense of propriety as 
well as your own repeated intimations of indisposition to discuss or 
listen to a reply to the views and opinions you were pleased to express 
to us in your elaborate speech to-day, the undersigned would respect- 
fully take this method of replying thereto. Believing as we do that 
the views and opinions you expressed in that address are entirely un- 
sound and prejudicial to the highest interests of our race as well as 
our country at large, we cannot do other than expose the same, and, 
as far as may be in our power, arrest their dangerous influence. It is 
not necessary at this time to call attention to more than two or three 
features of your remarkable address : 

1. The first point to which we feel especially bound to take ex- 
ception, is your attempt to found a policy opposed to our enfranchise- 
ment, upon the alleged ground of an existing hostility on the part of 
the former slaves toward the poor white people of the South. We 
admit the existence of this hostility^ and hold that it is entirely recip- 


rocal. But you obviously commit an error by drawing an argument 
from an incident of slavery, and making it a basis for a policy adapted 
to a state of freedom. Tlie hostility between tlie whites and blacks of 
the South is easily explained. It has its root and sap in the relation 
of slavery, and was incited on both sides by the cunning of the slave 
masters. Those masters secured their ascendency over both the poor 
whites and blacks by putting enmity between them. 

They divided both to conquer each. There was no earthly reason 
why the blacks should not hate and dread the poor whites when in a 
state of slavery, for it w^as from this class that their masters received 
their slave catchers, slave drivers, and overseers. They were the men 
called in upon all occasions by the masters whenever any fiendish out- 
rage was to be committed upon the slave. Now, sir, you cannot but 
perceive, that the cause of this hatred removed, the effect must be re- 
moved also. Slavery is abolished. The cause of this antagonism is 
removed, and you must see that it is altogether illogical (and " putting 
new wine into old bottles ") to legislate from slaveholding and slave- 
driving premises for a people whom you have repeatedly declared 
your purpose to maintain in freedom. 

2. Besides, even if it were true, as you allege, that the hostility of 
the blacks toward the poor whites must necessarily project itself into 
a state of freedom, and that this enmity between the two races is even 
more intense in a state of freedom than in a state of slavery, in the 
name of heaven, we reverently ask how can you, in view of your pro- 
fessed desire to promote the welfare of the black man, deprive him of 
all means of defence, and clothe him whom you regard as his enemy 
in the panoply of political power ? Can it be that you recommend a 
policy which would arm the strong and cast down the defenceless? 

I Can you, by any possibility of reasoning, regard this as just, fair, or 
wise? Experience proves that those are most abused who can be 

/ abused with the greatest impunity. Men are whipped oftenest who 
are whipped easiest. Peace between races is not to be secured by de- 
grading one race and exalting another, by giving power to one race 
and withholding it from another, but by maintaining a state of equal 
justice between all classes. First pure, then peaceable. 

3. On the colonization theory you were pleased to broach, very 
much could be said. It is impossible to suppose, in view of the use- 
fulness of the black man in time of peace as a laborer in the South, 
and in time of war as a soldier at the North, and the growing respect 
for his rights among the people, and his increasing adaptation to a 
high state of civilization in his native land, there can ever come a 
time when he can be removed from this country without a terrible 
shock to its prosperity and peace. Besides, the worst enemy of the 
nation could not cast upon its fair name a greater infamy than to ad- 


mit that negroes could be tolerated among them in a state of the most 
degrading slavery and oppression, and must be cast away, driven in- 
to exile, for no other cause than having been freed from their 
Washington, February 7, 1866. 

From this time onward the question of suffrage for the 
freedmen was not allowed to rest. The rapidity with 
which it gained strength was something quite marvelous ^ 
and surprising even to its advocates. Senator Charles 
Sumner soon took up the subject in the Senate, and treated 
it in his usually able and exhaustive manner. It was a 
great treat to listen to his argument running through two 
days, abounding as it did in eloquence, learning, and con- 
clusive reasoning. A committee of the Senate had 
reported a proposition giving to the States lately in rebel- 
lion, in so many words, complete option as to the enfran- 
chisement of their colored citizens ; only coupling with 
that proposition the condition that, to such States as chose 
to enfranchise such citizens, the basis of their representation 
in Congress should be proportionately increased ; or, in 
other words, only three-fifths of the colored citizens 
should be counted in the basis of representation in States 
where colored citizens were not allowed to vote, while in 
the States granting suffrage to colored citizens, the entire 
colored people should be counted in the basis of repre- 
sentation. Against this proposition myself and associates 
addressed to the Senate of the United States the follow- 
ing memorial : 

** To the Honorable the Senate of the United States : 

" The undersigned, being a delegation representing the colored 
people of the several States, and now sojourning in Washington, 
charged with the duty to look after the best interests of the recently 
emancipated, would most respectfully, but earnestly, pray your hon- 
orable body to favor no amendment of the Constitution of the United 
States which will grant any one or all of the States of this Union to 
disfranchise any class of citizens on the ground of race or color, for 
any consideration whatever. They would further respectfully repre- 


Rent that tlic Constitution as adopted by the fathers of the Republic 
in 1780. evidently contemplated the result which has now happened, 
to wit, the abolition of shirery. The men who framed it, and those 
who adopted it, framed and adopted it for the people, and the whole 
p^.ople— colored men being at that time legal voters in most of the 
States. In that instrument, as it now stands, there is not a sentence 
or a syllable conveying any shadow of right or authority by which 
any State may make color or race a disqualification for the exercise 
of the right of suffrage; and the undersigned will regard as a real 
calamity the introduction of any words, expressly or by implication, 
giving any State or States such power; and we respectfully submit 
that if the amendment now pending before your honorable body shall 
be adopted, it will enable any State to deprive any class of citizens of 
the elective franchise, notwithstanding it was obviously framed with 
a view to affect the question of negro suffrage only. 

"For these and other reasons the undersigned respectfully pray 
that the amendment to the Constitution, recently passed by the House 
and now before your body, be not adopted. And as in duty bound, 

It was the opinion of Senator Wm. Pitt Fessenden, 
Senator Henry Wilson, and many others, that the 
measure here memorialized against would, if incorporated 
into the Constitution, certainly bring about the enfran- 
chisement of the whole colored population of the South. 
It was held by them to be an inducement to the States to 
make suffrage universal, since the basis of representation 
would be enlarged or contracted according as suffrage 
should be extended or limited ; but the judgment of these 
leaders was not the judgment of Senator Sumner, Senator 
Wade, Yates, Howe, and others, or of the colored people. 
Yet, weak as this measure was, it encountered the united 
opposition of democratic senators. On that side the 
Hon. Thomas H. Hendricks, of Indiana, took the lead in 
appealing to popular prejudice against the negro. He 
contended that among other objectionable and insufferable 
results that would flow from its adoption, would be, that 
a negro would ultimately be a member of the United 
States Senate. I never shall forget the ineffable scorn 


and indignation with which Mr. Hendricks deplored the 
possibility of such an event. In less, however, than a 
decade from that debate. Senators Revels and Bruce, both 
colored men, had fulfilled the startling prophecy of the 
Indiana senator. It was not, however, by the half-way 
measure, which he was opposing for its radicalism, but by 
the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments, that these gen- 
tlemen reached their honorable positions. 

In defeating the option proposed to be given to the 
States to extend or deny suffrage to their colored popula- 
tion, much credit is due to the delegation already named 
as visiting President Johnson. That delegation made it 
their business to personally see and urge upon leading re- 
publican statesmen the wisdom and duty of impartial 
suffrage. Day after day Mr. Downing and myself saw 
and conversed with such members of the Senate whose 
advocacy of suffrage would be likely to insure its success. 

The second marked step in effecting the enfranchise- 
ment of the negro was made at the " National Loyalist's 
Convention," held at Philadelphia, in September, 1866. 
This body was composed of delegates from the South, 
North, and West. Its object was to diffuse clear views 
of the situation of affairs at the South, and to indicate the 
principles deemed advisable by it to be observed in the 
reconstruction of society in the Southern States. 

This convention was, as its history shows, numerously 
atte^ided by the ablest and most influential men from all 
sections of the country, and its deliberations participated 
rn by them. 

The policy foreshadowed by Andrew Johnson (who, by 
the grace of the assassin's bullet, was then in Abraham 
Lincoln's seat) — a policy based upon the idea that the 
rebel States were never out of the Union, and hence had 
forfeited no rights which his pardon could not restore — 
gave importance to this convention, more than anything 


wliich was tlion occurring at the South ; for tlirough the 
treachery of this bokl, bad man, we seemed then about to 
lose nearly all that had been gained by the war. 

I was residing in Rochester at the time, and was duly 
elected as a delegate from that city to attend this conven- 
tion. The honor was a surprise and a gratification to 
me. It was unprecedented for a city of over sixty thou- 
sand white citizens and only about two hundred colored 
residents, to elect a colored man to represent them in a 
national political convention, and the announcement of it 
gave a shock to the country of no inconsiderable violence. 
Many Republicans, with every respect for me personally, 
were unable to see the wisdom of such a course. They 
dreaded the clamor of social equality and amalgamation 
which would be raised against the party, in consequence 
of this startling innovation. They, dear fellows, found it 
much more agreeable to talk of the principles of liberty 
as glittering generalities, than to reduce those principles 
to practice. 

When the train on which I was going to the convention 
reached Harrisburg, it met and was attached to another 
from the West crowded with Western and Southern dele- 
gates on the way to the convention, and among them 
were several loyal Governors, chief among whom was the 
loyal Governor of Indiana, Oliver P. Morton, a man of 
AYebsterian mould in all that appertained to mental 
power. When my presence became known to these gen- 
tlemen, a consultation was immediately held among them, 
upon the question as to what was best to do with me. It 
seems strange now, in view of all the progress which had 
been made, that such a question could arise. But the 
circumstances of the times made me the Jonah of the 
Republican ship, and responsible for the contrary winds 
and misbehaving weather. Before we reached Lancaster, 
on our eastward bound trip, I was duly waited upon by a 


committee of my brother delegates, which liad been ap- 
pointed by other honorable delegates, to represent to me 
the undesirableness of my attendance upon the National 
Loyalist's Convention. The spokesman of these sub- 
delegates was a gentleman from New Orleans with a very 
French name, which has now escaped me, but which I 
wish I could recall, that I might credit him with a high 
degree of politeuess and the gift of eloquence. He began 
by telling me that he knew my history and my works, 
and that he entertained a very high respect for me, that 
both himself and the gentlemen who sent him, as well as 
those who accompanied him, regarded me with admira- 
tion ; that there was not among them the remotest objec- 
tion to sitting iu the convention with me, but their per- 
sonal wishes in the matter they felt should be set aside 
for the sake of our common cause ; that whether I should 
or should not go into the convention was purely a matter 
of expediency ; that I must know that there was a very 
strong and bitter prejudice against my race in the North 
as well as at the South ; and that the cry of social and 
political equality would not fail to be raised against the 
Republican party if I should attend this loyal national con- 
vention. He insisted that it was a time for the sacrifice of 
my own personal feeling, for the good of the Republican 
cause ; that there were several districts in the State of 
Indiana so evenly balanced that a very slight circum- 
stance would be likely to turn the scale against us, and 
defeat our Congressional candidates, and thus leave Con- 
gress without a two-thirds vote to control the headstrong 
and treacherous man then in the presidential chair. It 
was urged that this was a terrible responsibility for me 
or any other man to take. 

I listened very attentively to this, address, uttering no 
word during its delivery ; but when it was finished, I said 
to the speaker and the committee, with all the emphasis I 


could tlirow into my voice and manner :" Gentlemen, 
with all respect, you might as well ask me to put a loaded 
j)istol to my head and blow my brains out, as to ask me 
to keep out of this convention, to which I have been duly 
elected. Then, gentlemen, what would you gain by this 
exclusion ? Would not the charge of cowardice, certain 
to be brought against you, prove more damaging than 
that of amalgamation ? Would you not be branded all 
over the land as dastardly hypocrites, professing princi- 
ples which you have no wish or intention of carrying 
out ? As a matter of policy or expediency, you will be 
wise to let me in. Everybody knows that I have been 
duly elected as a delegate by the city of Rochester. The 
fact has been broadly announced and commented upon 
all over the country. If I am not admitted, the public 
will ask, ' Where is Douglass ? Why is he not seen in the 
convention ?' and you would find that enquiry more diffi- 
cult to answer than any charge brought against you for 
favoring political or social equality; but, ignoring the 
question of policy altogether, and looking at it as one of 
right and wrong, 1 am bound to go into that convention ; 
not to do so, would contradict the principle and practice 
of my life." With this answer, the committee retired 
from the car in which I was seated, and did not again 
approach me on the subject ; but I saw plainly enough 
then, as well as on the morning when the loyalist pro- 
cession was to march through the streets of Philadelphia, 
that while I was not to be formally excluded, I was to be 
ignored by the Convention. 

I was the ugly and deformed child of the family, and 
to be kept out of sight as much as possible while there 
was company in the house. Especially was it the pur- 
pose to offer me no inducement to be present in the ranks 
of the procession of its members and friends, which was 
to start from Independence Hall on the first morning of 
its meeting. 


In good season, however, I was present at this grand 
starting point. My reception there confirmed my im- 
pression as to the policy intended to be pursued towards 
me. Few of the many I knew were prepared to give me 
a cordial recognition, and among these few I may men- 
tion Gen. Benj. F. Butler, who, whatever others may say 
of him, has always shown a courage equal to his convic- 
tions. Almost everybody else on the ground whom I 
met seemed to be ashamed or afraid of me. On the pre- 
vious night I had been warned that I should not be allowed 
to walk through the city in the procession; fears had 
been expressed that my presence in it would so shock the 
prejudices of the people of Philadelphia, as to cause the 
procession to be mobbed. 

The members of the convention were to walk two 
abreast, and as I was the only colored member of the 
convention, the question was, as to who of my brother 
members would consent to walk with me ? The answer 
was not long in coming. There was one man present 
who was broad enough to take in the whole situation, and 
brave enough to meet the duty of the hour ; one who was 
neither afraid nor ashamed to own me as a man and a 
brother ; one man of the purest Caucasian type, a poet 
and a scholar, brilliant as a writer, eloquent as a speaker, 
and holding a high and influential position — the editor of 
a weekly journal having the largest circulation of any 
weekly paper in the city or State of New York — and that 
man was Mr. Theodore Tilton. He came to me in my 
isolation, seized me by the hand in a most brotherly 
way, and proposed to walk with me in the procession. 

I have been in many awkward and disagreeable posi- 
tions in my life, when the presence of a friend would 
have been highly valued, but I think I never appreciated 
an act of courage and generous sentiment more highly 
than I did of this brave young man, when we marched 


through the streets of Philadelphia on this memorable 

Well ! what came of all these dark forebodings of timid 
men ? How was my presence regarded by the populace ? 
and what effect did it produce ? I will tell you. The 
fears of the loyal governors who wished me excluded to 
propitiate the favor of the crowd, met with a signal 
reproof, their apprehensions were shown to be ground- 
less, and they were compelled, as many of them confessed 
to me afterwards, to own themselves entirely mistaken. 
The people were more enlightened and had made more 
progress than their leaders had supposed. An act for 
which those leaders expected to be pelted with stones, 
only brought to them unmeasured applause. Along the 
whole line of march my presence was cheered repeatedly 
and enthusiastically. I was myself utterly surprised by 
the heartiness and unanimity of the popular approval. 
We were marching through a city remarkable for the 
depth and bitterness of its hatred of the abolition move- 
ment; a city whose populace had mobbed anti-slavery 
meetings, burned temperance halls and churches owned 
by colored people, and burned down Pennsylvania Hall 
because it had opened its doors to people of different 
colors upon terms of equality. But now the children of 
those who had committed these outrages and follies were 
applauding the very .principles which their fathers had 
condemned. After the demonstrations of this first day, 
I found myself a welcome member of the convention, and 
cordial greeting took the place of cold aversion. The 
victory was short, signal, and complete. 

During the passage of the procession, as we were 
marching through Cliestnut street, an incident occurred 
which excited some interest in the crowd, and was noticed 
by the press at the time, and may perhaps be properly 
related here as a part of the story of my eventful life. It 


was my meeting Mrs. Amanda Sears, the daughter of my 
old mistress, Miss Lucretia Auld, the same Lucretia to 
whom I was indebted for so many acts of kindness when 
under the rough treatment of Aunt Katy, on the " old 
plantation home " of Col. Edward Lloyd. Mrs. Sears 
now resided in Baltimore, and as I saw her on the corner 
of Ninth and Chestnut streets, I hastily rah to her, and 
expressed my surprise and joy at meeting her. " But 
what brought you to Philadelphia at this time ?" I asked. 
She replied, with animated voice and countenance, " I 
heard you were to be here, and I came to see you walk in 
this procession." The dear lady, with her two children, 
had been following us for hours. Here was the daughter 
of the owner of a slave, following with enthusiasm that 
slave as a free man, and listening with joy to the plaudits 
he received as he marched along through the crowded 
streets of the great city. And here I may relate another 
circumstance which should have found place earlier in 
this story, which will further explain the feeling subsist- 
ing between Mrs. Sears and myself. 

Seven years prior to our meeting, as just described, I 
delivered a lecture in National Hall, Philadelphia, and at 
its close a gentleman approached me and said, " Mr. Doug- 
lass, do you know that your once mistress has been lis- 
tening to you to-night ? " 1 replied that I did not, nor 
was I inclined to believe it. The fact was that I had 
four or five times before had a similar statement made to 
me by different individuals in different States, and this 
made me skeptical in this instance. The next morning, 
however, I received a note from a Mr. Wm. Needles, very 
elegantly written, which stated that she who was Amanda 
Auld, daughter of Thomas and Lucretia Auld, and grand- 
daughter to my old master, Capt. Aaron Anthony, was 
f. now married to Mr. John L. Sears, a coal merchant in 

West Philadelphia. The street and number of Mr. Sears's 

478 MR. SEARS. 

oflicc was given, so that I might, by seeing him, assure 
myself of the facts in the case, and perhaps learn some- 
thing of the relatives whom I left in slavery. This note, 
with the hitimation given me the night before, convinced 
me there was soinething in it, and I resolved to know the 
truth. I had now been out of slavery twenty years, and 
no word had come to me from my sisters, or my brother 
Perry, or my grandmother. My separation had been as 
complete as if I had been an inhabitant of another planet. 
A law of Maryland at that time visited with heavy fine 
and imprisonment any colored person who should come 
into the State ; so I could not go to them any more than 
they could come to me. 

Eager to know if my kinsfolk still lived, and what was 
their condition, I made my way to the office of Mr. Sears, 
found him in, and handed him the note I had received 
from Mr. Needles, and asked him to be so kind as to read 
it and tell me if the facts were as there stated. After 
reading the note, he said it was true, but he must decline 
any conversation with me, since not to do so would be a 
sacrifice to the feelings of his father-in-law. I deeply 
regretted his decision, and spoke of my long separation 
from my relations, and appealed to him to give me some 
information concerning them. I saw that my words were 
not without their effect. Presently he said, ^' You pub- 
lish a newspaper, I believe ? " "I do,'' I said, " but if 
that is your objection to speaking with me, no word shall 
go into its columns of our conversation." To make a 
long story short, we had then quite a long conversation, 
during which Mr. Sears said that in my "Narrative" I 
had done his father-in-law injustice, for he was really a 
kind-hearted man, and a good master. I replied that 
there must be two sides to the relation of master and 
slave, and what was deemed kind and just to the one was 
the opposite to the other. Mr. Sears was not disposed to 


be unreasonable, and tbe longer we talked the nearer 
we came together. I finally asked permission to see 
Mrs. Sears, the little girl of seven or eight years when I 
left the eastern shore of Maryland. This request was a 
little too much for him at first, and he put me off by 
saying that she was a mere child when I last saw her, 
and she was now the mother of a large family of children, 
and I would not know her. He could tell me everything 
about my people as well as she. I pressed my suit, how- 
ever, insisting that I could select Miss Amanda out of a 
thousand other ladies, my recollection of her was so per- 
fect, and begged him to test my memory at this point. 
After much parley of this nature, he at length consented 
to my wishes, giving me the number of his house and 
name of street, with permission to call at three o'clock 
p. M. on the next day. I left him, delighted, and prompt 
to the hour was ready for my visit. I dressed myself in 
my best, and hired the finest carriage I could get to take 
me, partly because of the distance, and partly to make 
the contrast between the slave and the free man as strik- 
ing as possible. Mr. Sears had been equally thoughtful. 
He had invited to his house a number of friends to wit- 
ness the meeting between Mrs. Sears and myself. 

I was somewhat disconcerted when I was ushered into 
the large parlors occupied by about thirty ladies and 
gentlemen, to all of whom I was a perfect stranger. I 
saw the design to test my memory by making it difficult 
for me to guess who of the company was " Miss Amanda." 
In her girlhood she was small and slender, and hence a 
thin and delicately-formed lady was seated in a rocking- 
chair near the center of the room with a little girl by her 
side. The device was good, but it did not succeed. 
Glancing around the room, I saw in an instant the lady 
who was a child twenty-five years before, and the wife 
and mother now. Satisfied of this, I said, " Mr. Sears, 


if you will allow mc, I will select Miss Amanda from this 
company.'' 1 started tpwards her, and she, seeing that I 
recognized her, bounded to me with joy in every feature, 
and expressed her great happiness at seeing me. All 
thought of slavery, color, or what might seem to belong 
to the dignity of her })Osition vanished, and the meeting 
was as the meeting of friends long separated, yet still 
present in each other's memory and affection. 

Amanda made haste to tell me that she agreed 
with me about slavery, and that she had freed all 
her slaves as they had become of age. She brought 
her children to me, and I took them in my arms, with 
sensations which I could not if I would stop here to 
describe. One explanation of the feeling of this lady 
towards me was, that her mother, who died when she was 
yet a tender child, had been briefly described by me in a 
little " Narrative of my life," published many years before 
our meeting, and when I could have had no motive but 
the highest for what I said of her. She had read my 
story, and learned something of the amiable qualities of 
her mother through me. She also recollected that as I 
had had trials as a slave she had had her trials under the 
care of a stepmother, and that when she was harshly 
spoken to by her father's second wife she could always 
read in my dark face the sympathy of one who had often 
received kind words from the lips of her beloved mother. 
Mrs. Sears died three years ago in Baltimore, but she did 
not depart without calling me to her bedside, that I might 
tell her as much as I could about her mother, whom she 
was firm in the faith that she sliould meet in another and 
better world. She especially wished me to describe to her 
the personal appearance of her mother, and desired 
to know if any of her own children then present resembled 
her. I told her that the young lady standing in the cor- 
ner of the room was the image of her mother in form and 


features. She looked at her daughter and said, " Her 
Dame is Lucretia — after my mother." After telling me 
that her life had been a happy one, and thanking me for 
coming to see her on her death-bed, she said she was ready 
to die. We parted to meet no more in life. The inter- 
view touched me deeply, and was, I could not help think- 
ing, a strange one — another proof that " truth is often 
stranger than fiction." 

If any reader of this part of my life shall see in it the 
evidence of a want of manly resentment for wrongs in- 
flicted upon myself and race by slavery, and by the ances- 
tors of this lady, so it must be. No man can be stronger 
than nature, one touch of which, we are told, makes all the 
world akin. I esteem myself a good, persistent hater of 
injustice and oppression, but my resentment ceases when 
they cease, and I have no heart to visit upon children the 
sins of their fathers. 

It will be noticed that when I first met Mr. Sears in Phil- 
adelphia he declined to talk with me, on the ground that I 
l^ad'been uiijust to Captain Auld, his father-in-law. Soon 
after that meeting Captain Auld had occasion to go to Phil- 
adelphia, and, as usual, went straight to the house of his 
son-in-law, and had hardly finished the ordinary saluta- 
tions when he said : " Sears, I see by the papers that 
Frederick has recently been in Philadelphia. Did you go 
to hear him ?" "Yes, sir," was the reply. After asking 
sometliing about my lecture he said, " Well, Sears, did 
Frederick come to see you ? " " Yes, sir," said Sears. 
" Well, how did you receive him ? " Mr. Sears then told 
him all about my visit, and had the satisfaction of hearing 
the old man say that he had done right in giving me wel- 
come to his house. This last fact I have from Rev. J. D. 
Long, wlio, with his wife, was one of the party invited to 
meet me at the house of Mr. Sears on the occasion of my 
visit to Mrs. Sears. 


But I must now return from this digression and further 
rehite my experience in the loyalist national convention, 
and how from that time there was an impetus given to tlie 
enfranchisement of the freedmen which culminated in the 
fifteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United 
States. From the first the members of the convention 
were divided in their views of the proper measures of 
reconstruction, and this division was in some sense 
sectional. The men from the far South, strangely enough, 
were quite radical, while those from the border States 
wxre mostly conservative, and unhappily these last 
had control of the convention from the first. A Kentucky 
gentleman was made president, and its other officers were 
for the most part Kentuckians and all opposed to colored 
suffrage in sentiment. There was a " whole heap " (to 
use a Kentucky phrase) of " halfness " in that State dur- 
ing the war for the Union, and there was much more there 
after the war. The Maryland delegates, with the excep- 
tion of Hon. John L. Thomas, were in sympathy with 
Kentucky. Those from Virginia, except Hon. John 
Minor Botts, were unwilling to entertain the question. 
The result was that the convention was broken square in 
two. The Kentucky president declared it adjourned, and 
left the chair, against the earnest protests of the friends 
of manhood suffrage. 

But the friends of this measure were not to be out- 
generaled and suppressed in this way, and instantly reor- 
ganized, elected Hon. John M. Botts of Virginia president, 
discussed and passed resolutions in favor of enfranchising 
the freedmen, and thus placed the question before the 
country in such a manner that it could not be ignored. The 
delegates from the Southern States were quite in earnest, 
and bore themselves grandly in support of the measure ; 
but the chief speakers and advocates of suffrage on that 
occasion were Mr. Theodore Tilton and Miss Anna E. 


Dickinson. Of course, on such a question, I could not be 
expected to be silent. 1 was called forward and respond- 
ed with all the energy of my soul, for I looked upon 
suffrage to the Negro as the only measure which could 
prevent him from being thrust back into slavery. 

From this time onward the question of suffrage had no 
rest. The rapidity with which it gained strength was 
more than surprising to me. 

In addition to the justice of the measure, it was soon 
commended by events as a political necessity. As in the 
case of the abolition of slavery, the white people of the 
rebellious States have themselves to thank for its adoption. 
Had they accepted with moderate grace the decision of 
the court to which they appealed, and the liberal condi- 
tions of peace offered to them, and united heartily with 
the national government in its efforts to reconstruct their 
shattered institutions, instead of sullenly refusing as they 
did their counsel and their votes to that end, they might 
easily have defeated the argument based upon the neces- 
sity for the measure. As it was, the question was speed- 
ily taken out of the hands of colored delegations and mere 
individual efforts and became a part of the policy of the 
Kepublican party, and President U. S. Grant, with his 
characteristic nerve and clear perception of justice, 
promptly recommended the great amendment to the Con- 
stitution by which colored men are to-day invested with 
complete citizenship — the right to vote and to be voted for 
in the American Republic. 



Inducements to a political career— Objections— A newspaper enter- 
prise — The new National Era — Its abandonment — The Freedmen's 
Savings and Trust Company — Sad experience — Vindication. 

THE adoption of the fourteenth and fifteenth amend- 
ments and their incorporation into the Constitu- 
tion of the United States opened a very tempting field to 
my ambition, and one to which I should probably have 
yielded had I been a younger man. I was earnestly urged 
by many of my respected fellow-citizens, both colored and 
white, and from all sections of the country, to take up my 
abode in some one of the many districts of the South where 
there was a large colored vote and get myself elected, as 
they were sure I easily could do, to a seat in Congress — 
possibly in the Senate. That I did not yield to this 
temptation was not entirely due to my age, for the idea did 
not square well with my better judgment and sense 
of propriety. The thought of going to live among a people 
in order to gain their votes and acquire official honors was 
repugnant to my self-respect, and I had not lived long 
enough in the political atmosphere of Washington to 
have this sentiment sufficiently blunted to make me indif- 
ferent to its suggestions. I do not deny that the 
arguments of my friends had some weight in them, and 
from their standpoint it was all right ; but 1 was better 
known to myself than to them. I had small faith in my 
aptitude as a politician, and could not hope to cope with 
rival aspirants. My life and labors in the North had in 
a measure unfitted me for such work, and I could not 



have readily adapted myself to the peculiar oratory found 
to be most effective with the newly-enfranchised class. In 
the New England and Northern atmosphere I had acquired 
a style of speaking which in the South would have been 
considered tame and spiritless, and consequently he who 
" could tear a passion to tatters and split the ear of ground- 
lings " had far better chance of success with the masses 
there than one so little boisterous as myself. 

Upon the whole I have never regretted that I did not 
enter the arena of Congressional honors to which I was 

Outside of mere personal considerations I saw, or 
thought I saw, that in the nature of the case the sceptre 
of power had passed from the old slave and rebellious 
States to the free and loyal States, and tliat hereafter, at 
least for some time to come, the loyal North^ with its ad- 
vanced civilization, must dictate the policy and control 
the destiny of the republic. I had an audience ready- 
niade in the free States ; one whicli the labors of thirty 
years had prepared for me, and before this audience the 
freedmen of the South needed an advocate as much as 
they needed a member of Congress. I think in this I 
was right ; for thus far our colored members of Congress 
have not largely made themselves felt in the legislation 
of the country ; and I have little reason to think I could 
have done any better than they. 

I was not, however, to remain long in my retired home 
in Rochester, where I had planted my trees and was re- 
posing under their shadows. An effort was being made 
about this time to establish a large weekly newspaper in 
the city of Washington, which should be devoted to the 
defence and enlightenment of the newly-emancipated and 
enfranchised people ; and I was urged by such men as 
George T. Downing, J. H. Hawes, J. Sella Martin, and 
others, to become its editor-in-chief. My sixteen years' 


experience as editor and publisher of my own paper, and 
the knowledge of the toil and anxiety which such a rela- 
tion to a public journal must impose, caused me much 
reluctance and hesitation ; nevertheless, I yielded to the 
wishes of my friends and counsellors, went to Washing- 
ton, threw myself into the work, hoping to be able to lift 
up a standard at the national capital for my people which 
should cheer and strengthen them in the work of their 
own improvement and elevation. 

I was not long connected with this enterprise before I 
discovered my mistake. The cooperation so liberally 
promised, and the support which had been assured, were 
not very largely realized. By a series of circumstances, 
a little bewildering as I now look back upon them, I 
found myself alone, under the mental and pecuniary bur- 
den involved in the prosecution of the enterprise. I had 
been misled by loud talk of a grand incorporated publish- 
ing company, in which I should have shares if I wished, 
and in any case a fixed salary for my services ; and after 
all these fair-seeming conditions I had not been connected 
with the paper one year before its affairs had been so 
managed by the agent appointed by this invisible com- 
pany, or corporate body, as to compel me to bear the bur- 
den alone, and to become the sole owner of the printing 
establishment. Having become publicly associated with 
the enterprise, I was unwilling to have it prove a failure, 
and had allowed it to become in debt to me, both for 
money loaned and for services, and at last it seemed wise 
that I should purchase the whole concern, which I did, 
and turned it over to my sons Lewis and Frederic, v/ho 
were practical printers, and who, after a few years, were 
compelled to discontinue its publication. This paper was 
the New National Era^ to the columns of which the 
colored people are indebted for some of the best things 
ever uttered in behalf of their cause ; for, aside from its 


editorials and selections, many of the ablest colored men 
of the country made it the medium through which to 
convey their thoughts to the public. A misadventure 
though it was, which cost me from nine to ten thousand 
dollars, over it I have no tears to shed. The journal was 
valuable while it lasted, and the experiment was full of 
instruction to me, which has to some extent been heeded, 
for I have kept well out of newspaper undertakings since. 
Some one has said that " experience is the best teach- 
er." Unfortunately the wisdom acquired in one experience 
seems not to serve for another and new one ; at any rate, 
my first lesson at the national capital, bought rather 
dearly as it was, did not preclude the necessity of a second 
whetstone to sharpen my wits in this, my new home and 
new surroundings. It is not altogether without a feeling 
of humiliation that I must narrate my connection with 
the " Freedmen's Savings and Trust Company." 

,This was an institution designed to furnish a place of 
security and profit for the hard earnings of the colored 
people, especially at the South. Though its title was 
" The Freedmen's Savings and Trust Company," it is 
known generally as the " Freedmen's Bank." According 
to its managers it was to be this and something more. 
There was something missionary in its composition, and 
it dealt largely in exhortations as well as promises. The 
men connected with its management were generally 
church members, and reputed eminent for their piety. 
Some of its agents had been preachers of the " Word." 
Their aim was now to instil into the minds of the untu- 
tored Africans lessons of sobriety, wisdom, and economy, 
and to show them how to rise in the world. Circulars, 
tracts, and other papers were scattered like snowflakes in 
winter by this benevolent institution among the sable 
millions, and they were told to " look " to the Freedman's 
Bank and " live." Branches were established in all the 


Southern States, and a-s a result, money flowed into its 
vaults to the amount of millions. With the usual effect 
of sudden wealth, the managers felt like making a little 
display of their prosperity. They accordingly erected 
one of the most costly and splendid buildings of the time 
on one of the most desirable and expensive sites in the 
national capital, finished on the inside with black walnut, 
and furnished witli marble counters and all the modern 
improvements. The magnificent dimensions of the build- 
ing bore testimony to its flourishing condition. In pass- 
ing it on the street I often peeped into its spacious 
windows, and looked down the row of its gentlemanly and 
elegantly dressed colored clerks, with their pens behind 
their ears and button-hole bouquets in their coat-fronts, 
and felt my very eyes enriched. It was a sight I had 
never expected to see. I Avas amazed with the facility 
with which they counted the money ; they threw off the 
thousands with the dexterity, if not the accuracy, of old 
and experienced clerks. The whole thing was beautiful. 
I had read of this bank when I lived in Rochester, and 
had indeed been solicited to become one of its trustees, 
and had reluctantly consented to do so ; but when I came 
to Washington and saw its magnificent brown stone front, 
its towering height, and its perfect appointments, and the 
fine display it made in the transaction of its business, I 
felt like the Queen of Sheba when she saw the riches of 
Solomon, " the half had not been told me." 

After settling myself down in Washington in the office 
of the New Era, I could and did occasionally attend the 
meetings of the Board of Trustees, and had the pleasure 
of listening to the rapid reports of the condition of the 
institution, which were generally of a most encouraging 
character. My confidence in tlie integrity and wisdom of 
the management was such that at one time I had en- 
trusted to its vaults about twelve thousand dollars. It 


seemed fitting to me to cast in my lot with my brother 
freedmen, and help to build up an institution which rep- 
resented their thrift and economy to so striking advan- 
tage ; for tlie more millions accumulated there, I thought, 
the more consideration and respect would be shown to the 
colored people of the whole country. 

About four months before this splendid institution was 
compelled to close its doors in the starved and deluded 
faces of its depositors, and while I was assured by its 
President and by its Actuary of its sound condition, I was 
solicited by some of its trustees to allow them to use my 
name in the board as a candidate for its presidency. So I 
waked up one morning to find myself seated in a comforta- 
ble arm chair, with gold spectacles on my nose, and to hear 
myself addressed as President of the Freedmen's Bank. I 
could not help reflecting on the contrast between Frederick 
the slave boy, running about at Col. Lloyd's with only a tow 
linen shirt to cover him, and Frederick — President of a 
bank counting its assets by millions. I had heard of golden 
dreams, but such dreams had no comparison with this 
reality. And yet this seeming reality was scarcely more 
Substantial than a dream. My term of service on this 
golden height covered only the brief space of three 
months, and these three months were divided into two 
parts, during the first part of which I was quietly 
employed in an effort to find out the real condition of the 
bank and its numerous branches. This was no easy task. 
On paper, and from the representations of its management, 
its assets amounted to three millions of dollars, and its 
liabilities were about equal to its assets. With such a 
showing I was encouraged in the belief that by curtailing 
the expenses, doing away with non-paying branches, 
which policy the trustees had now adopted, we could be 
carried safely through the financial distress then upon the 
country. So confident was I of this, that in order to 


meet wliat was said to be a temporary emergency, I was 
induced to loan the bank ten thousand dollars of my own 
money, to be held by it until it could realize on a part of 
its abundant securities. This money, though it was 
repaid, was not done so promptly as under the supposed 
circumstances I thought it should be, and these circum- 
stances increased my fears lest the chasm was not so 
easily bridged as the actuary of the institution had 
assured me it could be. The more I observed and learned 
the more my confidence diminished. I found that those 
trustees who wished to issue cards and publish addresses 
professing the utmost confidence in the bank, had them- 
selves not one dollar deposited there. Some of them, 
while strongly assuring me of its soundness, had with- 
drawn their money and opened accounts elsewhere. 
Gradually I discovered that tlie bank had sustained heavy 
losses at the South through dishonest agents, that there 
was a discrepancy on the books of forty thousand dollars, 
for which no account could be given, that instead of our 
assets being equal to our liabilities we could not in all 
likelihoods of the case pay seventy-two cents on the 
dollar. There was an air of mystery, too, about the spa- 
cious and elegant apartments of the bank building which 
greatly troubled me, and which I have only been able 
to explain to myself on the supposition that the em- 
ployees, from the actuary and the inspector down to the 
messengers, were (perhaps) naturally anxious to hold 
their places, and consequently have the business con- 
tinued. I am not a violent advocate of the doctrine of 
the total depravity of human nature. I am inclined, on 
the whole, to believe it a tolerably good nature, yet 
instances do occur which oblige me to concede that men 
can and do act from mere personal and selfish motives. 
In this case, at any rate, it seemed not unreasonable to 
conclude that the finely dressed young gentlemen, 


adorned with pens and bouquets, the most fashionable and 
genteel of all our colored youth, stationed behind those 
marble counters, should desire to retain their places as 
long as there was money in the vaults to pay them their 

Standing on the platform of this large and complicated 
establishment, with its thirty-four branches, extending 
from New Orleans to Philadelphia, its machinery in full 
operation, its correspondence carried on in cipher, its 
actuary dashing in and out of the bank with an air of 
pressing business, if not of bewilderment, I found the 
path of enquiry I was pursuing an exceedingly difficult 
one. I knew there had been very lately several runs on 
the bank, and that there had been a heavy draft made 
upon its reserve fund, but I did not know what I should 
have been told before being allowed to enter upon the 
duties of my office, that this reserve, which the bank by 
its charter was required to keep, had been entirely ex- 
hausted, and that hence there was nothing left to meet 
any future emergency. Not to make too long a story, I 
was, in six weeks after my election as president of this 
bank, convinced that it was no longer a safe custodian of 
the hard earnings of my confiding people. This conclu- 
sion once reached, I could not hesitate as to my duty in 
the premises, and this was, to save as much as possible of 
the assets held by the bank for the benefit of the de- 
positors ; and to prevent their being further squandered 
in keeping up appearances, and in paying the salaries of 
myself and other officers in the bank. Fortunately, 
Congress, from which we held our charter, was then in 
session, and its committees on finance were in daily 
session. I felt it my duty to make known as speedily as 
possible to Hon. John Sherman, Chairman of the Senate 
Committee on Finance, and to Senator Scott of Pennsyl- 
vania, also of the same committee, that I regarded the 



titution as insolvent and irrecoverable, and that I 

could no longer ask my people to deposit their money in 
it. This representation to the finance committee sub- 
jected me to very bitter opposition on the part of the 
oiricers of the bank. Its actuary, Mr. Stickney, imme- 
diately summoned some of the trustees, a dozen or so of 
them to go before the finance committee and make a 
counter statement to that made by me ; and this they did. 
Some of them who had assisted me by giving me facts 
showing the insolvency of the bank, now made haste to 
contradict that conclusion, and to assure the committee 
that it was abundantly able to weather the financial storm, 
and pay dollar for dollar to its depositors if alloAved to go on. 

I was not exactly thunderstruck, but I was much 
amazed by this contradiction. I, however, adhered to my 
statement that the bank ought to stop. The finance 
committee substantially agreed with me, and in a few 
weeks so legislated as to bring this imposing banking 
business to a close by appointing three commissioners to 
take charge of its affairs. 

This is a fair and unvarnished narration of my con- 
nection with the Freedmen's Savings and Trust Company, 
otherwise known as the Freedmen's Savings Bank, a con- 
nection which has brought upon my head an amount of 
abuse and detraction greater than any encountered in any 
other part of my life. 

Before leaving the subject 1 ought in justice to myself 
to state that when I found that the affairs of the bank 
were to be closed up, I did not, as I might easily have 
done, and as others did, make myself a preferred creditor 
and take my money out of the bank, but on the contrary, 
I determined to take my chances with the other deposi- 
tors, and left my money, to the amount of two thousand 
dollars;^ to be divided with the assets among the creditors 
of the bank. And now, after seven years have been 


allowed for the value of the securities to appreciate and 
the loss of interests on the deposits for that length of 
time, the depositors may deem themselves fortunate if 
they receive sixty cents on the dollar of what they placed 
in the care of this fine savings institution. 

It is also due to myself to state, especially since I have 
seen myself accused of bringing the Freedmen's Bank^ 
into ruin, and squandering in senseless loans on bad 
security the hardly-earned moneys of my race, that all 
the loans ever made by the bank Avere made prior to my 
connection with it as its president. Not a dollar, not a 
dime of its millions were loaned by me, or with my 
approval. The fact is, and all investigation shows it, 
that I was married to a corpse. The fine building was 
there with its marble counters and black walnut finish- 
ings, the affable and agile clerks, and the discreet and 
colored cashier : but the Life, which was the money, was 
gone, and I found that I had been placed there with the 
hope that by " some drugs, some charms, some conjura- 
tion, or some mighty magic," I would bring it back. 

When I became connected with the bank I had a tol- 
erably fair name for honest dealing; I had expended in 
the publication of my paper in Rochester thousands of 
dollars annually, and had often to depend upon my credit 
to bridge over immediate wants, but no man there or else- 
where can say I ever wronged him out of a cent ; and I 
could, to-day, with the confidence of the converted cen- 
turion, offer " to restore fourfold to any from whom I 
have unjustly taken aught." I say this, not for the 
benefit of those who know me, but for the thousands of 
my own race who hear of me mostly through the mali- 
cious and envious assaults of unscrupulous aspirants who 
vainly fancy that they lift themselves into consideration 
by wanton attacks upon the characters of men who 
receive a larger share of respect and esteem than them- 



The Santo Domingo controversy— Decoration Day at Arlington, 1871 
—Speech delivered there— National colored convention at New 
Orleans, 1872— Elector at large for the State of New York— Death 
of Hon. Henry Wilson. 

THE most of my story is now before the reader. 
Whatever of good or ill the future may have in 
store for me, the past at least is secure. As I review the 
last decade up to the present writing, I am impressed 
with a sense of completeness ; a sort of rounding up of 
the arch to the point where the keystone may be inserted, 
the scaffolding removed, and the work, with all its perfec- 
tions or faults, left to speak for itself. This decade, from 
1871 to 1881, has been crowded, if time is capable of being 
thus described, with incidents and events which may well 
enough be accounted remarkable. To me they certainly 
appear strange, if not wonderful. My early life not only 
gave no visible promise, but no hint of such experience. 
On the contrary, that life seemed to render it, in part at 
least, impossible. In addition to what is narrated in the 
foregoing chapter, I have to speak of my mission to Santo 
Domingo ; my appointment as a member of the council for 
the government of the District of Columbia ; my election 
as elector at large for the State of New York ; my invita- 
tion to speak at the monument of the unknown loyal dead, 
at Arlington, on Decoration day ; my address on the un- 
veiling of Lincoln monument, at Lincoln Park, Washing- 
ton; my appointment to bring the electoral vote from 
New York to the national capital ; my invitation to speak 



near the statue of Abraham Lincoln, ^fadison Square, 
New York ; my accompanying the body of Vice-President 
Wilson from Washington to Boston ; my conversations 
with Senator Sumner and President Grant ; my welcome 
to the receptions of Secretary Hamilton Fish ; my ap- 
pointment by President R. B. Hayes to the office of Mar- 
slial of the District of Columbia ; my visit to Thomas 
Auld, the man who claimed me as his slave, and from 
whom I was purchased by my English friends ; and my 
visit to Lloyd's plantation, the home of my childhood, af- 
ter an absence of fifty -six years ; my appointment by 
President James A. Garfield to the office of Recorder of 
Deeds of the District of Columbia, are some of the mat- 
ters which belong to this decade, and may come into the 
chapter I am now about to write. 

Those who knew of my more than friendly relations 
with Hon. Charles Sumner, and of his determined opposi- 
tion to the annexation of Santo Domingo to the United 
States, were surprised to find me earnestly taking sides 
with General Grant upon that question. Some of my white 
friends, and a few of those of my own color — who, un- 
fortunately, allow themselves to look at public questions 
more through the medium of feeling than of reason, and 
who follow the line of what is grateful to their friends 
rather than what is consistent with their own convictions 
— thought my course was an ungrateful return for the 
eminent services of the Massachusetts senator. I am free 
to say that, had I been guided only by the promptings of my 
heart, I should in this controversy have followed the lead 
of Charles Sumner. He was not only the most clear- 
sighted, brave, and uncompromising friend of my race 
who had ever stood upon the floor of the Senate, but was 
to me a loved, honored, and precious personal friend ; a 
man possessing the exalted and matured intellect of a 
statesman, with the pure and artless heart of a child. 


Upon any issue, as between him and others, when the 
right seemed in anywise doubtful, I should have followed 
his counsel and advice. But the annexation of Santo 
Domingo, to my understanding, did not seem to be any 
such question. The reasons in its favor were many and 
obvious; and those against it, as I thought, were easily 
answered. To Mr. Sumner, annexation was a measure 
to extinguish a colored nation, and to do so by dishonor- 
able means and for selfish motives. To me it meant the 
alliance of a weak and defenceless people, having few or 
none of the attributes of a nation, torn and rent by in- 
ternal feuds, unable to maintain order at home, or com- 
mand respect abroad, to a government which would give 
it peace, stability, prosperity, and civilization, and make 
it helpful to both countries. To favor annexation at the 
time when Santo Domingo asked for a place in our union, 
was a very different thing from what it was when Cuba 
and Central America were sought by fillibustering expe- 
ditions. When the slave power bore rule, and a spirit of 
injustice and oppression animated and controlled every 
part of our government, I was for limiting our dominion 
to the smallest possible margin ; but since liberty and 
equality have become the law of our land, I am for ex- 
tending our dominion whenever and wherever such ex- 
tension can peaceably and honorably, and with the 
approval and desire of all the parties concerned, be ac- 
complished. Santo Domingo wanted to come under our 
government upon the terms tlms described ; and for more 
reasons than I can stop here to give, I then believed, and 
do now believe, it would have been wise to have received 
her into our sisterhood of States. 

The idea that annexation meant degradation to a 
colored nation was altogether fanciful; there was no 
more dishonor to Santo Domingo in making her a State 
of the American Union, than in making Kansas, Nebras- 

C^^Cv^Cj>^ •yCA^^'^Z^A^^T-^Ji 


ka, or any other territory such a State. It was giving to 
a part the strength of the whole, and lifting what must 
be despised for its isolation into an organization and 
relationship which would compel consideration and 

Though I differed from Mr. Sumner in respect of this 
measure, and although I told him I thought he was un- 
just to President Grant, it never disturbed our friendship. 
After his great speech against annexation, which occupied 
six hours in its delivery, and in which he arraigned the 
President in a most bitter and fierce manner, being at the 
White House one day, I was asked by President Grant 
what I " now thought of my friend, Mr. Sumner " ? I re- 
plied that I believed Mr. Sumner sincerely thought, that 
in opposing annexation, he was defending the cause of the 
colored race as he always had done, but that I thought he 
was mistaken. 1 saw that my reply was not very satis- 
factory, and said : '' What do you, Mr. President, think of 
Senator Sumner " ? He answered, with some feeling : 
*' I think he is mad." 

The difference in opinion on this question between 
these two great men was the cause of bitter personal es- 
trangement, and one which I intensely regretted. The 
truth is, that neither one was entirely just to the other, 
because neither saw the other in his true character ; and 
having once fallen asunder, the occasion never came 
when they could be brought together. 

Variance between great men finds no healing influence 
in the atmosphere of Washington. Interested parties are 
ever ready to fan the flame of animosity and magnify 
the grounds of hostility in order to gain the favor of one 
or the other. This is perhaps true in some degree in 
every community ; but it is especially so of the national 
capital, and this for the reason that there is ever a large 
class of people here dependent upon the influence and 
favor of powerful public men for their daily bread. 


My selection to visit Santo Domingo with the commission 
sent thither, was another point indicating the difference 
between the old time and the new. It placed me on the 
deck of an American man-of-war, manned by one hundred 
marines and five hundred men-of-wars-men, under the 
national flag, which I could now call mine, in common 
with other American citizens, and gave me a place not 
in the fore-castle, among the hands, nor in the caboose 
with the cooks, but in the captain's saloon and in the so- 
ciety of gentlemen, scientists, and statesmen. It would be 
a pleasing task to narrate the varied experiences and 
the distinguished persons encountered in this Santo Do- 
mingo tour, but the material is too boundless for the limits 
of these pages. I can only say, it was highly interesting and 
instructive. The conversations at the Captain's table (at 
which I had the honor of a seat) were usually led by 
Messrs.Wade, Howe, and White — the three commissioners ; 
and by Mr. Hurlburt of the New York World ; the last- 
named gentleman impressed me as one remarkable for 
knowledge and refinement, in which he was no whit 
behind Messrs. Howe and White. As for Hon. Benj. F. 
Wade, he was there, as everywhere, abundant in knowl- 
edge and experience, fully able to take care of himself in 
the discussion of any subject in which he chose to take a 
part. In a circle so brilliant, it is no affectation of mod- 
esty to say, I was for the most part a listener and a 
learner. The commander of our good ship on this voy- 
age, Capt. Temple, now promoted to the position of Com- 
modore, was a very imposing man, and deported himself 
with much dignity towards us all. For his treatment to 
me I am especially grateful. A son of the United States 
navy as he was — a department of our service consider- 
ably distinguished for its aristocratic tendencies— I 
expected to find something a little forbidding in his man- 
ner; but I am bound to say that in this I was agreeably 


disappointed. Both the commander and the officers under 
him bore themselves in a friendly manner towards me 
durino- all the voyage ; and this is saying a great thing 
for them, for the spectacle presented by a colored man 
seated at the captain's table was not only unusual, but 
had never before occurred in the history of the United 
States navy. If, during this voyage, there was anything 
to complain of, it was not in the men in authority, or in 
the conduct of the thirty gentlemen who went out as the 
honored guests of the expedition, but in the colored wait- 
ers. My presence and position seemed to trouble them 
for its incomprehensibility, and they did not know exactly 
how to deport themselves towards me. Possibly they 
may have detected in me something of the same sort in 
respect of themselves ; at any rate, we seemed awkwardly 
related to each other during several weeks of the voyage. 
In their eyes I was Fred. Douglass suddenly, and possibly 
undeservedly, lifted above them. The fact that I was 
colored and they were colored had so long made us equal, 
that the contradiction now presented was too much for 
them. After all, I have no blame for Sam and Garrett. 
They were' trained in the school of servility to believe 
that white men alone were entitled to be waited upon by 
colored men ; and the lesson taught by my presence on 
the " Tennessee " was not to be learned upon the instant, 
without thought and experience. I refer to the matter 
simply as an incident quite commonly met with in the 
lives of colored men who, by their own exertions or other- 
wise, have happened to occupy positions of respectability 
and honor. While the rank and file of our race quote, 
with much vehemence, the doctrine of human equality, 
they are often among the first to deny and denounce it in 
practice. Of course this is true only of the more ignor- 
ant. Intelligence is a great leveler here as elsewhere. 
It sees plainly the real worth of men and things, and is 


not easily imposed upon by tlie dressed-up emptiness of 

human pride. 

With a colored man on a sleeping-car as its conductor, 
the last to have his bed made up at night, and the last to 
have his boots blacked in the morning, and the last to be 
served in any way, is the colored passenger. This con- 
duct is the homage which the black man pays to the 
white man's prejudice, whose wishes, like a well-trained 
servant, he is taught to anticipate and obey. Time, edu- 
cation, and circumstances are rapidly destroying these 
mere color distinctions, and men will be valued in this 
country, as well as in others, for what they are and for 
what they can do. 

My appointment at the hands of President Grant to a 
seat in the council — ^by way of eminence sometimes called 
the upper house of the territorial legislature of the Dis- 
trict of Columbia — at the time it was made, must be 
taken as a signal evidence of his high sense of justice, 
fairness, and impartiality. The colored people of the 
district constituted then, as now, about one-third of the 
whole population. They were given by Gen. Grant, three 
members of this legislative council — a representation 
more proportionate than any that has existed since the 
government has passed into the hands of commissioners, 
for they have all been white men. 

It has sometimes been asked why I am called " Honor- 
able." My appointment to this council must explain this, 
as it explains the impartiality of Gen. Grant, though I 
fear it will hardly sustain this prodigious handle to my 
name, as well as it does the former part of this proposi- 
tion. The members of this district council were required 
to be appointed by the President, with the advice and 
consent of the United States Senate. This is the ground, 
and only ground that I know of, upon which anybody has 
claimed this title for me. I do not pretend that the 

Commissioners to Santo Domingo. 


foundation is a very good one, but as I have generally 
allowed people to call me what they have pleased, and as 
there is nothing necessarily dishonorable in this, 1 have 
never taken the pains to dispute its application and pro- 
priety ; and yet I confess that I am never so spoken of 
without feeling a trifle uncomfortable — about as much so 
as when I am called, as 1 sometimes am, the Rev. Fred- 
erick Douglass. My stay in this legislative body was of 
short duration. My vocation abroad left me little time 
to study the many matters of local legislation ; hence my 
resignation, and the appointment of my son Lewis to fill 
out my term. 

I have thus far told my story without copious quota- 
tions from my letters, speeches, or other writings, and 
shall not depart from this rule in what remains to be 
told, except to insert here my speech, delivered at Arling- 
ton, near the monument to the " Unknown Loyal Dead," 
on Decoration Day, 1871. It was delivered under impres- 
sive circumstances, in presence of President Grant, his 
Cabinet, and a great multitude of distinguished people, 
and expresses, as I think, the true view which should be 
taken of the great conflict between slavery and freedom 
to which it refers. 

"Friends and Fellow Citizens: TaiTy here for a moment. My 
words shall be few and simple. The solemn rites of this hour and 
place call for no lengthened speech. There is, in the very air of this 
resting-ground of the unknown dead a silent, subtle, and an all-pervad- 
ing eloquence, far more touching, impressive, and thrilling than living 
lips Lave ever uttered. Into the measureless depths of every loyal 
soul it is now whispering lessons of all that is precious, priceless, holi- 
est, and most enduring in human existence. 

"Dark and sad will be the hour to this nation when it forgets to 
pay grateful homage to its greatest benefactors. The offering we bring 
to-day is due alike to the patriot soldiers dead and their noble com- 
rades who still live; for, whether living or dead, whether in time or 
eternity, the loyal soldiers who imperiled all for country and freedom 
arc one and inseparable. 

" Those unknown heroes whose whitened bones have been piously 


'^•alhcrcd here, and whose green graves we now strew with sweet and 
beautiful flowers, choice emblems alike of pure hearts and brave 
spiiits, reached, in 'their glorious career that last highest point of 
nobleness beyond which human power cannot go. They died for 

their country. 

"No loftier tribute can be paid to the most illustrious of all the 
benefactors of mankind than we pay to these unrecognized soldiers 
when we write above their graves this shining epitaph. 

" When the dark and vengeful spirit of slavery, always ambitious, 
preferring to rule in hell than to serve in heaven, fired the Southern 
heart and stirred all the malign elements of discord, w^hen our great 
Eepublic, the hope of freedom and self-government throughout the 
world, had reached the point of supreme peril, when the Union of 
these States was torn and rent asunder at the center, and the armies 
of a gigantic rebellion came forth with broad blades and bloody 
hands to destroy the very foundation of American society, the 
unknown braves who flung themselves into the yawning chasm, where 
cannon roared and bullets whistled, fought and fell. They died for 
their country. 

" We are sometimes asked, in the name of patriotism, to forget the 
merits of this fearful struggle, and to remember with equal admiration 
those who struck at the nation's life and those who struck to save it, 
those wiio fought for slavery and those who fought for liberty and 

"I am no minister of malice. I would not strike the fallen. I 
would not repel the repentant ; but may my ' right hand forget her 
cunning and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,' if I forget 
the difference between the parties to that terrible, protracted, and 
bloody conflict. 

* ' If we ought to forget a war which has filled our land with wid- 
ows and orphans, which has made stumps of men of the very flower 
of our youth; sent them on the journey of life armless, legless, 
maimed, and mutilated, which has piled up a debt heavier than a 
mountain of gold, swept uncounted thousands of men into bloody 
graves, and planted agony at a million hearthstones — I say, if this 
war is to be forgotten, I ask, in the name of all things sacred, what 
shall men remember? 

"The essence and significance of our devotions here to-day are not 
to be found in the fact that the men whose remains fill these graves 
were brave in battle. If we met simply to show our sense of bravery, 
we should find enough to kindle admiration on both sides. In the 
raging storm of fire and blood, in the fierce torrent of shot and shell, 
of sword and bayonet, whether on foot or on horse, unflinching cour- 
age marked the rebel not less than the loyal soldier. 


"But we are not here to applaud manly courage, save as it has 
been displ aycd in a noble cause. We must never forget that victory 
to the rebellion meant death to the republic. We must never forge! 
that the loyal soldiers who rest beneath this sod flung themselves 
between the nation and the nation's destroyers. If to-day we have a 
country not boiling in an agony of blood, like France, if now we 
have a united country, no longer cursed by the hell-black system of 
human bondage, if the American name is no longer a by-word and a 
hissing to a mocking earth, if the star-spangled banner floats only 
over free American citizens in every quarter of the land, and our 
country has before it a long and glorious career of justice, liberty, 
and civilization, we are indebted to the unselfish devotion of the noble 
army who rest in these honored graves all around us. " 

In the month of April, 1872, I had the honor to attend 
and preside over a national convention of colored citizens 
held in New Orleans. It was a critical period in the his- 
tory of the Republican party, as well as in that of the 
country. Eminent men who had hitherto been looked 
upon as the pillars of republicanism had become dissatis- 
fied with President Grant's administration, and deter- 
mined to defeat his nomination for a second term. The 
leaders in this unfortunate revolt were Messrs. Trumbull, 
Schurz, Greeley, and Sumner. Mr. Schurz had already 
succeeded in destroying the Republican party in the State 
of Missouri, and it seemed to be his ambition to be 
the founder of a new party ; and to him more than to any 
other man belongs the credit of what was once known as 
the Liberal-Republican party, which made Horace Greeley 
its standard-bearer in the campaign of that year. 

At the time of the convention in New Orleans the ele- 
ments of this new combination were just coming together. 
The division in the Republican ranks seemed to be grow- 
ing deeper and broader every day. The colored people of 
the country were much affected by the threatened disrup- 
tion, and their leaders were much divided as to the 
side upon which they should give their voice and their 
votes. The names of Greeley and Sumner, on account of 


their long and earnest advocacy of justice and liberty to 
the blacks, had powerful attractions for the newly-enfran- 
chised class, and there was in this convention at New 
Orleans naturally enough a strong disposition to fraternize 
with the new party and follow the lead of their old 
friends. Against this policy I exerted whatever influence 
I possessed, and, I think, succeeded in holding back that 
convention from what I felt sure then would have been a 
fatal political blunder, and time has proved the correct- 
ness of that position. My speech on taking the chair on 
that occasion was telegraphed from New Orleans in full to 
the New York Herald^ and the key-note of it was that 
there was no path out of the Hepublican party that did 
not lead directly into the Democratic party — away from 
our friends and directly to our enemies. Happily this 
convention pretty largely agreed with me, and its mem- 
bers have not since regretted that agreement. 

From this convention onward, until the nomination and 
election of Grant and Wilson, I was actively engaged on 
the stump, a part of the time in Virginia with Hon. Henry 
Wilson, in North Carolina with John M. Langston and 
John H. Smyth, and in the State of Maine with Senator 
Hamlin, Gen. B. F. Butler, Gen. Woodford, and Hon. 
James G. Blaine. 

Since 1872 I have been regularly what my old friend 
Parker Fillsbury would call a " field hand " in every im- 
portant political campaign, and at each national conven- 
tion have sided with what has been called the stalwart 
^ element of the Republican party. It was in the Grant 
presidential campaign that New York took an advanced 
step in the renunciation of a timid policy. The Republi- 
cans of that State, not having the fear of popular preju- 
dice before their eyes, placed my name as an elector 
at large at the head of their presidential ticket. Consid- 
ering the deep-rooted sentiment of the masses against 


Negroes, the noise and tumult likely to be raised, espe- 
cially among our adopted citizens of Irish descent, this 
was a bold and manly proceeding, and one for which the 
Republicans of the State of New York deserve the grati- 
tude of every colored citizen of the Republic, for it was a 
blow at popular prejudice in a quarter where it was 
capable of making the strongest resistance. The result 
proved not only the justice and generosity of the measure, 
but its wisdom. The Republicans carried the State by a 
majority of fifty thousand over the heads of the Liberal- 
Republican and Democratic parties combined. 

Equally significant of the turn now taken in the politi- 
cal sentiment of the country was the action of the Repub- 
lican electoral college at its meeting in Albany, when it 
committed to my custody the sealed-up electoral vote of 
the great State of New York and commissioned me 
to bring that vote to the national capital. Only a few 
years before any colored man was forbidden by law to 
carry a United States mail bag from one post-office to an- 
other. He was not allowed to touch the sacred leather, 
though locked in " triple steel," but now not a mail bag, 
but a document which was to decide the presidential 
question with all its momentous interests, was committed 
to the hands of one of this despised class, and around 
him, in the execution of his high trust, was thrown all the 
safeguards provided by the Constitution and the laws 
of the land. Though I worked hard and long to secure 
the nomination and election of Gen. Grant in 1872, I 
neither received nor sought office from him. He was my 
choice upon grounds altogether free from selfish or per- 
sonal considerations. I supported him because he had 
done all, and would do all, he could to save not only the 
country from ruin but the emancipated class from oppres- 
sion and ultimate destruction, and because Mr. Greeley, 
with the Democratic party behind him, would not have 


the power, even if lie had the disposition, to afford us the 
needed protection which our peculiar condition required. 
I could easily have secured the appointment as minister 
to Hayti, but preferred to urge the claims of my friend 
Ebenezer Bassett, a gentleman and a scholar, and a man 
well fitted by his good sense and amiable qualities to fill 
the position with credit to himself and his country. It is 
with a certain degree of pride that I am able to say that 
my opinion of the wisdom of sending Mr. Bassett to Hayti 
has been fully justified by the creditable manner in 
which, for eight years, he discharged the difiicult duties 
of that position, for I have the assurance of Hon. Hamil- 
ton Fish, Secretary of State of the United States, that 
Mr. Bassett was a good minister. In so many words the 
ex-Secretary told me that he " wished that one-half of his 
ministers abroad performed their duties as well as Mr. 
Bassett." To those who know Hon. Hamilton Fish this 
compliment will not be deemed slight, for few men are 
less given to exaggeration and are more scrupulously 
exact in the observance of law and in the use of language 
than is that gentleman. While speaking in this strain of 
complacency in reference to Mr. Bassett, I take pleasure 
also in bearing my testimony, based upon knowledge 
obtained at the State Department, that Mr. John Mercer 
Langston, the present minister to Hayti, has acquitted 
himself with equal wisdom and ability to that of Mr. Bas- 
sett in the same position. Having known both these 
gentlemen in their youth, when the one was at Yale and 
the other at Oberlin College, and witnessed their efforts to 
qualify themselves for positions of usefulness, it has 
afforded me no limited satisfaction to see them rise in the 
world. Such men increase the faith of all in the possibil- 
ities of their race, and make it easier for those who are to 
come after them. 

The unveiling of Lincoln monument in Lincoln Park, 


Washington, April 14, 1876, and the part taken by me in 
the ceremonies of that grand occasion, takes rank among 
the most interesting incidents of my life, since it brought 
me into mental communication with a greater number of 
tlie influential and distinguished men of the country than 
any I liad before known. Tliere were present the Presi- 
dent of the United States and his Cabinet, judges of the 
Supreme Court, the Senate and House of Representatives, 
and many thousands of citizens to listen to my address 
upon the illustrious man the colored people of the United 
States had, as a mark of their gratitude, erected that im- 
pressive monument. Occasions like this have done 
wonders in the removal of popular prejudice and lifting 
into consideration the colored race, and I reckon it one of 
the high privileges of my life that I was permitted to have 
a share in this and several other like celebrations. 

The progress of a nation is sometimes indicated by 
small things. When Henry Wilson, an honored Senator 
and Vice-President of the United States, died in the 
capitol of the nation, it was a significant and telling 
indication of national advance, when three colored citizens, 
Mr. Robert Purvis, Mr. James Wormley, and myself, were 
selected with the Senate Committee, to accompany his 
honored 'remains from Washington to the grand old 
commonwealth he loved so well, and whom in turn she 
had so greatly loved and honored. It was meet and 
right that we should be represented in the long procession 
that met those remains in every State between here and 
Massachusetts, for Henry Wilson was among the fore- 
most friends of the colored race in this country, and this 
was the first time in its history when a colored man was 
made a pall-bearer at the funeral, as I was in this instance, 
of a Vice-President of the United States. 

An appointment to any important and lucrative office 
under tho United States government, usually brings its 


recipient a large measure of praise and congratulation on 
the one hand, and much abuse and disparagement on the 
other; and he may think himself singularly fortunate if 
the censure does not exceed the praise. I need not dwell 
upon the causes of this extravagance, but I may say there 
is no office of any value in tlie country which is not 
desired and sought by many persons equally meritorious 
and equally deserving. But as only one person can be 
api)ointed to any one office, only one can be pleased, 
while many are offended; unhappily, resentment follows 
disappointment, and this resentment often finds expres- 
sion in disparagement and abuse of the successful man. 
As in most else I have said, I borrow this reflection from 
my own experience. 

My appointment as United States Marshal of the Dis- 
trict of Columbia, was in keeping with the rest of my life, 
as a freeman. It was an innovation upon long established 
usage, and opposed to the general current of sentiment in 
the community. It came upon the people of the District 
as a gross surprise, and almost a punishment; and pro- 
voked something like a scream — I will not say a yell — 
of popular displeasure. As soon as I was named by 
President Hayes for the place, efforts were made by 
members of the bar to defeat my confirmation before the 
Senate. All sorts of reasons against my appointment, 
but the true one, were given, and that was withheld more 
from a sense of shame, than from a sense of justice. 
The apprehension doubtless was, that if appointed mar- 
shal, I would surround myself with colored deputies, 
colored bailiffs, colored messengers, and pack the jury- 
box with colored jurors ; in a word. Africanize the courts. 
But the most dreadful thing threatened, Avas a colored 
man at the Executive Mansion in white kid gloves, spar- 
row-tailed coat, patent-leather boots, and alabaster cravat, 
performing the ceremony — a very empty one — of intro- 


ducin<2; tlic aristocratic citizens of the republic to the 
President of the United States. This was something 
entirely too mnchto be borne; and men asked themselves 
in view of it, To what is the world coming? and where 
w^ill these things stop? Dreadful! Dreadful! 

It is creditable to the manliness of the American 
Senate, that it was moved by none of these things, and 
that it lost no time in the matter of my contirmation. 
I learn, and believe my information correct, that fore- 
most among those who supported my confirmation against 
the objections made to it, was Hon. Eoscoe Conkling of 
New York. His speech in executive session is said by 
the senators wlio heard it, to have been one of the most 
masterly and eloquent ever delivered on the floor of the 
Senate; and this too I readily believe, for Mr. Conkling 
possesses the ardor and fire of Henry Clay, the subtlety 
of Calhoun, and the massive grandeur of Daniel Webster. 

The effort to prevent my confirmation having failed, 
nothing could be done but to wait for some overt act to 
justify my removal ; and for this my unfriends had not 
lono- to wait. In the course of one or two months I was 
invited by a number of citizens of Baltimore to deliver a 
lecture in that city in Douglass Hall — a building named 
in honor of myself, and devoted to educational purposes. 
With this invitation I complied, giving the same lecture 
which I had two years before delivered in the city of 
Washington, and which was at the time published in full 
in the newspapers, and very highly commended by them. 
The subject of the lecture was, " Our National Capital," 
and in it I said many complimentary things of the city, 
which were as true as they were complimentary. I spoke 
of what it had been in the past, what it was at that time, 
and what I thought it destined to become in the future ; 
giving it all credit for its good points, and calling atten- 
tion to some of its ridiculous features. For this I got 


myself pretty roughly handled. The newspapers worked 
themselves up to a frenzy of passion, and committees 
were appointed to procure names to a petition to Pi'esi- 
dent Hayes demanding my removal. The tide of popular 
feeling was so violent, that I deemed it necessary to 
depart fi'om my usual custom when assailed, so far as to 
write the following explanatory letter, from which the 
reader will be able to measure the extent and quality of 
my offense: 

"To the Editor of the Washington Evening Star: 

"Sir:— You were mistaken in representing me as being off on a 
lecturing tour, and, by implication, neglecting my duties as United 
States Marshal of the District of Columbia. My absence from Wash- 
ington during two days was due to an invitation by the managers to 
be present on the occasion of the inauguration of the International 
Exhibition in Philadelphia. 

"In complying with this invitation, I found myself in company 
with other members of the government who went thither in obedience 
to the call of patriotism and civilization. No one interest of the 
Marshal's office suffered by my temporary absence, as I had seen to it 
that those upon whom the duties of the office devolved were honest, 
capable, industrious, painstaking, and faithful. My Deputy Marshal 
is a man every way qualified for his position, and the citizens of 
Washington may rest assured that no unfaithful man will be retained 
in any position under me. Of course I can have nothing to say as to 
my own fitness for the position I hold. You have a right to say 
what you please on that point ; yet I think it would be only fair and 
generous to wait for some dereliction of duty on my part before I 
shall be adjudged as incompetent to fill the place. 

" You will allow me to say also that the attacks upon me on account 
of the remarks alleged to have been made by me in Baltimore, strike 
me as both malicious and silly. Washington is a great city, not a 
village nor a hamlet, but the capital of a great nation, and the man- 
ners and habits of its various classes are proper subjects for pre- 
sentation and criticism, and I very much mistake if this great city 
can be thrown into a tempest of passion by any humorous reflections 
I may take the liberty to utter. The city is too great to be small, and 
I think it will laugh at the ridiculous attempt to rouse it to a point of 
furious hostility to me for anything said in my Baltimore lecture. 

"Had the reporters of that lecture been as careful to note what I 
said in praise of Washington as what I said, if you please, in dis- 


paragement of it, it would have been impossible to awaken any feel- 
ing against me in this community for what I said. It is the easiest 
thing in the world, as all editors know, to pervert the meaning and 
give a one-sided impression of a whole speech by simply giving 
isolated passages from the speech itself, without any qualifying connec- 
tions. It would hardly be imagined from anything that has appeared 
here that I had said one word in that lecture in honor of Washington, 
and yet the lecture itself, as a whole, was decidedly in the interest of 
the national capital. I am not such a fool as to decry a city in which 
I have invested my money and made my permanent residence. 

"After speaking of the power of the sentiment of patriotism I held 
this language : ' In the spirit of this noble sentiment I would have 
the American people view the national capital. It is our national 
center. It belongs to us; and whether it is mean or majestic, whether 
arrayed in glory or covered with shame, we cannot but share its 
character and its destiny. In the remotest section of the republic, in 
the most distant parts of the globe, amid the splendors of Europe or 
the wilds of Africa, we are still held and firmly bound to this com- 
mon center. Under the shadow of Bunker Hill monument, in the 
peerless eloquence of his diction, I once heard the great Daniel 
Webster give welcome to all American citizens, assuring them that 
wherever else they might be strangers, they were all at home there. 
The same boundless welcome is given to all American citizens by 
Washington. Elsewhere we may belong to individual States, but 
here we belong to the whole United States. Elsewhere we may 
belong to a section, but here we belong to a whole country, and the 
whole country belongs to us. It is national territory, and the one 
place where no American is an intruder or a carpet-bagger. The new 
comer is not less at home than the old resident. Under its lofty domes 
and stately pillars, as under the broad blue sky, all races and colors of 
men stan(J upon a footing of common equality. . 

" ' The wealth and magnificence which elsewhere might oppress the 
humble citizen has an opposite effect here. They are felt to be a part 
of himself and serve to ennoble him in his own eyes. He is an 
owner of the marble grandeur which he beholds about him, — as much 
so as any of the forty millions of this great nation. Once in his life 
every American who can should visit Washington: not as the Mo- 
hametan to Mecca ; not as the Catholic to Rome ; not as the Hebrew 
to Jerusalem, nor as the Chinaman to the Flowery kingdom, but in 
the spirit of enlightened patriotism, knowing the value of free 
institutions and how to perpetuate and maintain them. 

*' * Washington should be contemplated not merely as an assemblage 
of fine buildings ; not merely as the chosen resort of the wealth and 
fashion of the country ; not merely as the honored place where the 


Statesmen of the nation assemble to shape the policy and frame the 
laws- not merely as the point at which we are most visibly touched by 
the outside world, and where the diplomatic skill and talent of the old 
continent meet and match themselves against those of the new, but 
as the national flag itself-a glorious symbol of civil and religious 
liberty, leading the world in the race of social science, civilization, 
and renown.' 

"My lecture in Baltimore required more than an hour and a half 
for its delivery, and every intelligent reader will see the difficulty of 
doing justice to such a speech when it is abbreviated and compressed 
into a half or three-quarters of a column. Such abbreviation and 
condensation has been resorted to in this instance. A few stray sen- 
tences, called out from their connections, would be deprived of much 
of their harshness if presented in the form and connection in which 
they were uttered; but I am taking up too much space, and will close 
with the last paragraph of the lecture, as delivered in Baltimore. 
*No city in the broad world has a higher or more beneficent mission. 
Among all the great capitals of the world it is pre-eminently the capi- 
tal of free institutions. Its fall would be a blow to freedom and pro- 
gress throughout the world. Let it stand then where it does now 
stand— where the father of his country planted it, and where it has 
stood for more than half a century ; no longer sandwiched between two 
slave States; no longer a contradiction to human progress; no longer 
the hot-bed of slavery and the slave trade ; no longer the home of the 
duelist, the gambler, and the assassin ; no longer the frantic partisan 
of one section of the country against the other ; no longer anchored to 
a dark and semi-barbarous past, but a redeemed city, beautiful to the 
eye and attractive to the heart, a bond of perpetual union, an angel 
of peace on earth and good will to men, a common ground upon which 
Americans of all races and colors, all sections, North and South, may 
meet and shake bands, not over a chasm of blood, but over a free, 
united, and progressive republic. ' '* 

I have already alluded to the fact that much of the 
opposition to my appointment to the office of United 
States Marshal of the District of Columbia was due to the 
possibility of my being called to attend President Hayes 
at the Executive Mansion upon state occasions, and hav- 
ing the honor to introduce the guests on such occasions. 
I now wish to refer to the reproaches liberally showered 
upon me for holding the office of Marshal while denied 


this distinguished honor, and to show that tlic complaint 
against me at this point is not a well founded complaint. 

1st. Because the office of United States Marshal is 
distinct and separate and complete in itself, and must be 
accepted or refused upon its own merits. If, when offered 
to any person, its duties are such as he can properly ful- 
fill, he may very properly accept it ; or, if otherwise, he 
may as properly refuse it. 

2d. Because the duties of the office are clearly and 
strictly defined in the law by which it was created ; and 
because nowhere among these duties is there any mention 
or intermention that the Marshal may or shall attend 
upon the President of the United States at the Executive 
Mansion on state occasions. 

3d. Because the choice as to who shall have the 
honor and privilege of such attendance upon the Presi- 
dent belongs exclusively and reasonably to the President 
himself, and that therefore no one, however distinguished, 
or in whatever office, has any just cause to complain of 
the exercise by the President of this right of choice, or 
because he is not himself chosen. 

In view of these propositions, which I hold to be indis- 
putable, I should have presented to the country a most 
foolish and ridiculous figure had I, as absurdly counseled 
by some of my colored friends, resigned the office of Mar- 
shal of the District of Columbia, because President 
Rutherford B. Hayes, for reasons that must have been 
satisfactory to his judgment, preferred some person other 
than myself to attend upon him at the Executive Man- 
sion and perform the ceremony of introducing on state 
occasions. But it was said, that this statement did not 
cover the whole ground ; that it was customary for the 
United States Marshal of the District of Columbia to 
perform this social office ; and that the usage had come 
to have almost the force of law. I met this at the time. 


and I meet it now by denying the binding force of this 
custom. No former President has any right or power to 
make his example the rule for his successor. The custom 
of inviting the Marshal to do this duty was made by a 
President, and could be as properly unmade by a Presi- 
dent. Besides, the usage is altogether a modern one, and 
had its origin in peculiar circumstances, and was justified 
by those circumstances. It was introduced in the time 
of war by President Lincoln when he made his old law 
partner and intimate acquaintance Marshg^l of the Dis- 
trict, and was continued by Gen. Grant when he appointed 
a relative of his, Gen. Sharp, to the same office. But 
again, it was said that President Hayes only departed 
from this custom because the Marshal in my case was a 
colored man. The answer I made to this, and now make 
to it, is, that it is a gratuitous assumption and entirely 
begs the question. It may or may not be true that my 
complexion was the cause of this departure, but no man 
has any right to assume that position in advance of a 
plain declaration to that effect by President Hayes him- 
self. Never have I heard from him any such declaration 
or intimation. In so far as my intercourse with him is 
concerned, I can say that I at no time discovered in him 
a feeling of aversion to me on account of my complexion, 
or on any other account, and, unless I am greatly de- 
ceived, I was ever a welcome visitor at the Executive 
Mansion on state occasions and all others, while Ruther- 
ford B. Hayes was President of the United States. I 
have further to say that I have many times during his 
administration had the honor to introduce distinguished 
strangers to him, both of native and foreign birth, and 
never had reason to feel myself slighted by himself or his 
amiable wife ; and I think he would be a very unreason- 
able man who could desire for himself, or for any other, 
a larger measure of respect and consideration than this 


at the hands of a man and woman occupying the exalted 
positions of Mr. and Mrs. Hayes. 

I should not do entire justice to the Honorable ex- 
President if I did not bear additional testimony to his 
noble and generous spirit. When all Washington was in 
an uproar, and a wild clamor rent the air for my removal 
from the office of Marshal on account of the lecture 
delivered by me in Baltimore, when petitions were flow- 
ing in upon him demanding my degradation, he nobly 
rebuked the mad spirit of persecution by openly declaring 
his purpose to retain me in my place. 

One other word. During the tumult raised against me 
in consequence of this lecture on the " National Capital," 
Mr. Columbus Alexander, one of the old and wealthy 
citizens of Washington, who was on my bond for twenty 
thousand dollars, was repeatedly besought to withdraw 
his name, and thus leave me disqualified ; but like the 
President, both he and my other bondsman, Mr. George 
Hill, Jr., were steadfast and immovable. I was not sur- 
prised that Mr. Hill stood bravely by me, for he was a 
Republican ; but I was surprised and gratified that Mr. 
Alexander, a Democrat, and, I believe, once a slaveholder, 
had not only the courage, but the magnanimity to give 
me fair play in this fight. What I have said of these 
gentlemen, can be extended to very few others in this 
community, during that period of excitement, among 
either the white or colored citizens, for, with the excep- 
tion of Dr. Charles B. Purvis, no colored man in the city 
uttered one public word in defence or extenuation of me 
or of my Baltimore speech. 

This violent hostility kindled against me was singularly 
evanescent. It came like a whirlwind, and like a whirl- 
wind departed. I soon saw nothing of it, either in the 
courts among the lawyers, or on the streets among the 
people ; for it was discovered that there was really in my 


speccli at Baltimore notliing wliich made me " worthy of 
strii)cs or of boiidsv" 

I can say from my experience in the office of United 
States Marshal of the District of Columbia, it was every 
way agreeable. When it was an open question whether 
I should take the office or not, it was apprehended and 
predicted if I should accept it in face of the opposi- 
tion of the lawyers and judges of the courts, I should 
be subjected to numberless suits for damages, and so 
vexed and worried that the office would, be rendered 
valueless to me ; that it would not only eat up my sal- 
ary, but possibly endanger what little I might have laid up 
for a rainy day. I have now to report that this appre- 
hension was in no sense realized. What might have hap- 
pened had the members of the District bar been half as 
malicious and spiteful as they had been industriously 
represented as being, or if I had not secured as my as- 
sistant a man so capable, industrious, vigilant, and care- 
ful as Mr. L. P. Williams, of course I cannot know. But 
I am bound to praise the bridge that carries me safely 
over it. I think it will ever stand as a witness to my fit- 
ness for the position of Marshal, that I had the wisdom 
to select for my assistant a gentleman so well instructed 
and competent. I also take pleasure in bearing testimo- 
ny to the generosity of Mr. Phillips, the Assistant Mar- 
shal who preceded Mr. Williams in that office, in giving 
the new assistant valuable information as to the various 
duties he would be called upon to perform. I have fur- 
ther to say of my experience in the Marshal's office, that 
while I have reason to know that the eminent Chief Jus- 
tice of the District of Columbia and some of his associates 
were not well pleased wdth my appointment, I was always 
treated by them, as well as by the chief clerk of the 
courts, Hon. J. R. Meigs, and the subordinates of the lat- 
ter (with a single exception), with the respect and con- 

Marshal at the Inauguration of Pres. Garfield.